THE UK's most northerly castle is back up for sale - with a starting bid guide price of less than a typical Scottish house.

Muness Castle, on the isle of Unst is on offer with an 'opening bid' price of £149,000.

The average Scottish house price was at £180,000 at the end of last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The protected Grade A listed building, said to be the most northerly of the Shetland Isles had been bought last year in a five hour online auction with a winning bid of £184,000, £54,000 over the guide price, but could not complete.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) which runs and maintains the castle as a museum and the Scottish Government quango has previously said it will keep its 'guardianship'.

HeraldScotland:

The castle, which is normally free to visit and open all year round was built in 1598 for Laurence Bruce of Cultmalindie, a descendant of Robert the Bruce and half-brother of the powerful Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney.

Gavin Forbes Farquhar, the owner of the castles has said that he wanted to sell the 16th century castle and other assets he holds in Scotland because of the “communist” SNP government running the country into the ground.

He bought the land with the castle ruin in the island of Unst for £65,000 in 2006, and said in April, last year that circumstances were not favourable for entrepreneurs.

“We have got an extreme communist government in Scotland. There is no encouragement for anybody to do anything in the capitalist economy in Scotland,” he said.

Mr Farquhar, who owns Ecclesgreig Estate at St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire, had planned to open a tourism business at the castle.

Designated as a national monument in 1953, it is being sold as an "opportunity to purchase your own 15th century castle set within 240 acres of land in stunning location".

The sale by Future Property Auctions also includes a number of crofter's cottages, mainly in derelict condition, and barns.

The auctioneers, who will open the sale on Thursday have stated that it is believed the purchase comes with a barony title, however that has not been investigated.

The auctioneers claim that gold and copper reserves were discovered in recently commissioned geological survey.

But it is unclear whether mining operations will be permitted on the land.

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They say the auciton provides a "unique opportunity to purchase the most northerly castle in the British isles."

Today the 73ft by 26ft castle retains circular towers at the north and south corners.

According to the auctioneeers, the ground floor and first storey "survive mostly intact with corbelling supports for small turrets on the east and west corners".

HES has previously said that publicaccess to the castle will not change if the title to the property passes to a new owner.

The agency said they will continue to have full control and management of the property under the guardianship agreement in place Muness Castle is a property in care of Scottish Ministers under the 1979 Ancient Monument Act which passes full control and management to Scottish Ministers under guardianship, with HES undertaking that management and control on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

According to HES, the castle is of national importance "because of what it contributes to our understanding of late 16th to early 17th century domestic and defensive architecture".

In its guide on the castle it says: "Its significance is further enhanced by the role that its builder, Laurence Bruce, played in the political history of Shetland during the time of the Stewart earls of Orkney and by the potential that its below-ground remains have for shedding light on the material culture of the period. Its importance is reflected in its status as a Property in Care of the Secretary of State for Scotland."

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HES further describes it as a "remarkably fine tower house of the late 1500s"

"Here it’s easy to appreciate how the family, servants and visitors would have used the internal space of the castle," HES says.

According to HES, the castle has other fine architectural touches, including a variety of gun and shot holes, small turrets with chequer-pattern corbels and dummy gunloops. It also has a scale-and-platt staircase and an integral kitchen.

It is described as the earliest example of mainland Scots Renaissance architecture in Shetland, marking a break with previous Scandinavian practice A finely carved oak panel from the castle survives, suggesting its hall was once panelled in oak, according to HES. The panel is now held by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Stories abound about Laurence Bruce. He was accused and investigated by the Privy Council for oppressing Shetlanders, though several legends portray him in a heroic light.

His conflict with the earls of Orkney came to a head in 1608, when Earl Patrick chased Thomas Black of Whalsay to Muness with 36 men. He was unable to besiege the castle before he had to withdraw.

The castle was attacked and burnt by privateers from Dunkirk in 1627, though it was reoccupied afterwards. It was finally sold by the Bruce family in 1718.

According to HES it had fallen into ruin by the end of that century.