Friends’ offer to save historic Rum castle is rejected

Kinloch Castle Friends Association aims to preserve the 19th-century hunting lodge. Photograph: Kinloch Castle Friends Association.

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An application by Kinloch Castle Friends Association (KCFA) for asset transfer of A-listed Kinloch Castle from the current owner, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been rejected.

KCFA has expressed extreme disappointment at the decision, with a spokesperson saying: ‘We are determined to continue to fight for the castle and the opportunities which our business plan provides to contribute to the economic regeneration of the island and the wider community. Our exploration of other funding mechanisms within the financial community has provided independent corroboration that our business plan is robust.’

KCFA submitted the bid for asset transfer after SNH declared it had no further need for the castle, which at one time was run as an upmarket hotel with hostel facilities, providing accommodation for up to 56 people. Since then visitor numbers to the nature reserve have halved due to a lack of accommodation while doubling in neighbouring Eigg. Rum has also recently lost the services of a ranger as reduced visitor numbers made the post non- viable. The ranger organised a wide variety of walks, talks and other events on the natural attractions for visitors.

Since its closure in 2013 the castle has deteriorated substantially, with repeated outbreaks of wet and dry rot, and water ingress. The original population also fell from 42 to a low of around 20 people. It is estimated that restoration of the castle with increase in visitor numbers would create employment opportunities for up to 50 people, at the castle but also for subsidiary businesses, such as the provision of outdoor experience activities.

SNH commissioned a feasibility report on the future of Kinloch Castle in 2016, and the conclusion was that a sustainable solution for the castle must be achieved: ‘The cost of failure to the island and wider community, the present custodian, the public sector, central government and all other stakeholders is likely to be considerably more than the cost of success.’