Page last updated at 23:51 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 00:51 UK

Castle 'rebuilt' in virtual world

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Invergarry Castle on Second Life
The castle has been recreated twice on Second Life

A ruined Highlands castle has been recreated in a virtual world on the internet.

Invergarry was burned down by Oliver Cromwell's forces in 1654. It was rebuilt, but ransacked by government soldiers after the Battle of Culloden.

The Conservation Trust has "built" two versions of the castle, near Fort Augustus, on Second Life.

Virtual tours of the building in its ruinous state today and how it was in 1740 have been offered.

A computer expert who writes codes for Second Life was brought in by MyGlengarry to recreate the castle.

I have known the castle since I was a boy and every 20 years another part of a wall falls down
Paul Williamson Conservation Trust

The original architect's drawings from the 1700s, which are kept at Invergarry heritage centre, and photographs were used as guides.

The 1740 version includes a spiral staircase.

Paul Williamson, of MyGlengarry, said the castle had been effectively recreated "brick-by-brick" and was a true representation of how it had looked.

The 1740 virtual castle was cloned and then torn down to leave it looking like today's ruin.

Among those lined up to be taken on a guided tour is a woman who has found an ancestor on her father's side who worked in the castle.

The virtual castles are part of a wider project launched by Mr Williamson.

Three generations of his family have owned a stretch of the River Garry and the land around it. Two years ago he decided to put the management of the area into a trust.

Plots have been offered for sale and the purchasers given a say on the running of the river and land.

Real ruins of Invergarry
A viewing platform is planned for the real ruins

The castle is not on Mr Williamson's land, but owned by another family who have supported its reconstruction on Second Life.

Formerly an ancestral home of the MacDonald Clan, it was left a ruin after it was attacked in the wake of the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Mr Williamson said: "I have known the castle since I was a boy and every 20 years another part of a wall falls down."

A viewing platform has been proposed because the remains of the castle have been deemed unsafe.

Second Life is the best-known virtual world on the internet.

People are shown as digital versions of themselves, known as avatars, who can build homes and businesses, buy and sell land and have relationships.

About 15 million people have joined Second Life, although the number of active users is thought to be in the hundreds of thousands.

In March, the UK government hit back at claims it was wasting taxpayers' money on a virtual reality website.

The 3D "innovations centre" on the Second Life site cost £20,000 to set up and £12,000 a year to run even though it is not accessible to the public.

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