Rum group seek way forward for Kinloch Castle

The Castle was built for Sir (then simply Mr) George Bullough in the last years of the 19th and first years of the 20th centuries and completed around 1901.

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A group committed to securing a viable future for Kinloch Castle on Rum is marching on in defence of the building despite their asset transfer attempt being knocked back by current caretakers NatureScot.

Kinloch Castle Friends Association (KCFA) has been in talks with the nature agency for years concerning the future of the Category A-listed building with the former saying it has no further operational use for the castle and intimating it is to market the site.

Catherine Duckworth, KCFA secretary, said the group welcomes any potential new owner who would be beneficial to the castle and policies, the community and to the nature reserve.

‘We have drawn up detailed plans and projections and are convinced a viable and sustainable business can be developed,’ she added.

‘We have been seeking funding for this but without agreement over lease or ownership from NatureScot this has so far proved impossible.’

Since coming into public ownership in 1957, the castle has provided much-needed accommodation on Rum with room for more than 50 visitors and latterly – pre Covid) – with meals and a bar open to everyone. While that accommodation was limited, quirky and outdated, it offered space for visiting groups from universities, schools and other interest bodies and for many individuals who wished to visit the island’s national nature reserve.

NatureScot South Highland Operations Manager Stewart Sandison told the Lochaber Times: ‘We continue to work to identify a beneficial owner for the castle and grounds.

‘Any future owner will need to contribute towards three key objectives – securing the conservation and preservation of the castle; contributing to the sustainability of the Rum community and enhancing nature on Rum, promoting its enjoyment and minimising the castle’s impact on the natural environment.’

Since the closure of the hostel, visitor numbers to Rum have halved at a time when tourism to the west coast of Scotland has burgeoned.

‘KCFA has long been seeking a viable and positive future for the castle which would bring a range of employment and business opportunities to Rum, the Small Isles and the wider Lochaber area,’ added Catherine.

‘Since our asset transfer request foundered, we have still been seeking a way forward so that the castle can be properly maintained. Restoration of the castle could help regenerate and provide resilience for the long-term and would give back to the community on and around Rum.’

Reports by Page and Park, the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, Savill’s and by Scottish Natural Heritage over the years have come to the conclusion the castle is best suited to providing visitor accommodation as well as keeping the front of house ‘museum’ rooms open to tours and visitors.

KCFA has launched a series of webinars demonstrating the vast interest worldwide in Rum and in the castle with the next in the series, Kinloch Castle, What Next? Restoration, Regeneration, Resilience, taking place on Monday May 17 from 2pm to 4.30pm. The webinar will be chaired by KCFA chairman Professor Ewan Macdonald OBE and features short talks by Kate Forbes MSP, Lord Thurso, chairman of Visit Scotland and Denis Rixson, Highland councillor and chairman of Isle of Rum Community Trust among others.

Go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/148194438555 to register.