CARDIGAN Castle is on top of the world after being crowned champion in Channel 4’s ‘Great British Buildings Restoration of the Year’.

The castle scooped victory in the Georgian category in the first episode of the series and in last night’s programme was up against two winners of the Victorian category, Lews Castle in Scotland and Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, plus the early category winner Hampton Court Palace and modern-day winner Birmingham Fire Station.

But it was Cardigan Castle which come out on top in the eyes of the judges from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors following its impressive £12m restoration.

It is a stunning success for the castle from an original list of more than 20 historic buildings throughout the country and will provide a huge tonic to the whole town.

Channel 4 presenter Kevin McCloud: “Five years ago this place was a local embarrassment. The site had declined over the decades.

“The judges described this as a project that lifts the spirits. This was a complicated and technical site and they have really pulled it off. This is a building that has been saved and reinvented for our age. It has been brilliantly done”

The win has been greeted with delight by locals and visitors alike.

Cardigan mayor Cllr Clive Davies said: “This is fantastic news. This accolade really takes our castle to a new level of exposure and will no doubt make Cardigan and its castle a destination this summer and future years.

"Great for our shops, great for our local economy. Well done everyone involved!”

And Cadwgan chairman Non Davies said: “This is a tremendous honour for the Castle, Cardigan, Ceredigion and all those involved in the Restoration project. "Winning the overall title of Restoration of the Year in a competition involving some very prestigious projects is testimony to the hard work put in by the local community over many years and the high standard of the work undertaken.

"We are very proud of the site – it shows what can be achieved in a small rural community with commitment, dedication and determination. We look forward to welcoming visitors from near and far to the “Restoration of the Year” over the coming months.”

Lead architect Niall Phillips of Bristol-based Purcell, who has been involved with the project since 2005, said: “Who would have thought a small charity with not a penny in the bank could rescue an utterly derelict Castle and bring it back into a vibrant sustainable new use, now perhaps more important for Cardigan than it has been at any period in its history?

"At Purcell we are so proud of our role in helping and guiding the Cadwgan Trust and our delight at the Castle’s success is a great reward!”

Castle facilities officer Sue Lewis – who was screened being told the result – has had to keep it secret since she was filmed with presenters Kevin McCloud and Dr Anna Keay back in January.

“I am so relieved it has finally been made public. I have been going around with a huge internal grin for weeks. When we were told the castle had won I was literally struck dumb.

"My overwhelming feeling was one of justification and delight for all the hard work put in over the last 15 years. Cadwgan Trust and the castle have done Cardigan and Wales proud,” she said.

“When I watched the programme I couldn’t believe the opposition we were up against. If I hadn’t known we were the winners I would have been very worried indeed!”