THIS is the first look at the newly-restored Hadlow Tower, which has been finally stripped of its scaffolding.After two years and £2.8 million, the Grade I listed Gothic Revival folly is almost ready for its first guests in May.
The 19th century tower, which was the subject of a decade-long campaign by the Save Hadlow Tower Action Group, was bought in February 2011 by the Vivat Trust, a charity which restores historic buildings.
It was bought from Michael Kiesser for £1 after Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, fearing for the structure's future, issued a compulsory purchase order to save the crumbling folly.
Now it is just three months, a few furnishings and a lick of paint away from opening its doors as luxury holiday accommodation and visitor centre.
Caroline Elcombe from the group, which has been putting together the exhibition for the ground floor centre, said it looked "beautiful".
She told the Courier: "We wondered over the last few years whether we would see it finished but we held our faith.
"It looks beautiful, I can see it from my house now. We lobbied Tonbridge and Malling in 2001 so it's been rather a long time."
The visitor centre will display original artefacts from the building as well as souvenirs, information tablets and the chance for tourists to take in the views from the top of the 170ft tower.
It will be open for business from May until October, every Thursday.
Bronwyn Neal, from the Vivat Trust, said its three hotel rooms were already fully booked.
She added: "Contractors are still on the site doing some outside works, re-laying the road area, but the scaffolding has been taken off the building and our focus is now on the interior for the next couple of months.
"It's very exciting to be near the end. The picture taken about a week ago shows the ornate gothic detail. It really is in the final stages now. It's a fabulous looking building, it really dominates. From the centre of Hadlow, it stands quite proud."
Now the lantern is fully reinstated for the first time since the Great Storm in 1987, the tower is classed as the country's tallest folly.
The 175-year-old tower, used as a lookout by the Home Guard during the Second World War, has been listed in the World Monument Fund's list of the top 100 endangered sites, and was damaged in the 1987 storm.