The present Castle Toward was built in 1820 by Kirkman Finlay, former Lord Provost of Glasgow, as his family's country house. Later owned and extended by the Coats family of Paisley, the house is a castellated mansion, with Italian plasterwork installed in the public rooms in 1920. The grounds incorporate the ruins of the sixteenth century Toward Castle, the Chinese ponds, wooded areas, access to the shore, and views over the Firth of Clyde.
The castle, and 226 acres (0.915 km2) of woodland, were purchased by the Corporation of Glasgow in the 1940s. The building was used initially as a residential school for children recovering from illness or living in deprived home conditions. It then became available for residential education for children from all Glasgow Primary Schools and operated for 50 years as an outdoor education centre, being used by up to 400,000 children[clarification needed] from Glasgow and Renfrewshire.
With the reorganisation of local government in Scotland in 1996, ownership passed to Argyll and Bute Council and such centres were threatened with closure. A rescue operation was mounted by Castle Toward’s principal, Peter Wilson, and a company, Actual Reality was formed, which kept the castle in use as an outdoor activity centre, along with the council-owned centre at Ardentinny. There have been several attempts by the council to sell the estate, but all have met with fierce opposition.
On 13 November 2009 Argyll and Bute Council closed the castle on the grounds that it was unfit for purpose. This followed directly Actual Reality's request to upgrade the fire protection system following an audit of the castle in co-operation with Strathclyde Fire Brigade. There is currently a growing online campaign to save Castle Toward, including a Facebook campaign which has attracted over 4000 members in its first month.
Toward Castle is now a residential training centre operated by Actual Reality. Outdoor education activities include high ropes, kayaking, and orienteering, as well as gorge walks and hill walks. For younger children there are wide games, amongst other outdoor games. Its long history has led to a multitude of ghost stories, much perpetuated by the young people who visit.
The grounds of the outdoor education centre were used as a location for the children's BBC Television series Raven, featuring the actor James MacKenzie, up to and including the seventh series at the start of 2008.
As well as outdoor education, the house is also used for residential courses for young people in music and art. The Glasgow Schools' Symphony Orchestra and West of Scotland Schools' Concert Band visit regularly. The castle's composer-in-residence is John Maxwell Geddes, who wrote a Postlude for Strings in protest at plans to sell the castle.
- "Toward Castle". Dark Isle. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- "Combined Training Centre - Castle Toward". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "Castle Toward Sell Off". Dunoon Observer. 10 October 2003. Retrieved 2007-03-04.[dead link]
- "Toward Fight Goes On". Dunoon Observer. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 2007-03-04.[dead link]
- "Save Castle Toward". Save Castle Toward Campaigners. December 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
- "Save Castle Toward Facebook group". Save Castle Toward Campaigners.
- "Castle Toward". Actual Reality. Retrieved 2007-03-04.[dead link]
- "'Raven' - the children's TV gameshow". BBC. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- James Mackenzie. "LATEST INFO". Retrieved 29 April.