Ellon Castle Garden has been officially handed over to the local community.
The historic site - regarded as the town’s “secret garden” - is set to be restored to its former glory and become a major tourist attraction.
Ellon Castle Garden Company was formed to manage the garden on behalf of the community and realise the potential of the so-called jewel in the local crown.
Last Thursday, site owners Scotia Homes and Barratt Homes handed the keys to group representatives.
The firms are building around 250 homes at Castle Meadows overlooking the grounds.
Garden company chairman Alan Cameron said they had reached a landmark stage of what will be a great asset to the town, a tourism attraction and something that will have a spin-off for local businesses.
He added: “The garden which has always been regarded as a secret garden, although on the edge of Ellon itself, has been neglected for the past 30 or so years.
“There is considerable structural work required to stabilise walls and this work will be undertaken as a matter of priority. This means that it will be difficult initially to open the garden but it is the intention of the board to have open days as soon as
Scotia director Derrick Thomson believes the castle garden has huge tourism potential.
He said: “It has been a long time coming but we are delighted this jewel in the crown is now finally going to see a loving, caring handover and become a real focus for the people of Ellon.
“The mere fact that it sits between other local entities like Pitmedden and Haddo will ensure it attracts people from miles around.”
Scott Pettitt, Barratt North Scotland development manager, said: “The gardens are a peaceful and beautiful walled space in the heart of Ellon and will soon be an attractive area for local residents and visitors of the town to enjoy and benefit from.
“I look forward to seeing the gardens flourish over the next few months.”
Plans for the site include restoring original features such as the sundial, fountain and footpaths as well as replanting trees and shrubs. The castle ruins will form part of the attraction.
The grounds contain one of the country’s largest collections of yew trees.
As part of a planning-gain agreement, Scotia and Barratt are also in the process of handing over 11 flats from the Castleton development which will be rented out and the income used to fund the restoration and ongoing upkeep of the garden.
It is expected that it will take up to five years to fully restore the site. The group hope to have an open day in the autumn.
In the meantime, they are seeking volunteers who could undertake general gardening work.
Further information can be obtained by emailing email@example.com