Want to read more?
We value our content and access to our full site is only available with a subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device. In addition, your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.
Just want to read one issue? No problem you can subscribe for just one week (or longer if you wish).
For some people, the Ross of Mull’s abandoned Pennyghael House will be haunting and creepy. For others, it’s part of rock and movie history. But for the right buyer, this eight bedroom wreck, alongside its 8,700 acre estate, presents an opportunity.
Five million pounds is all it will cost, far more than its name implies. Pennyghael means the Pennyland of the Gael: a land valued by the penny or section of the penny. Now it will cost you half a billion pennies.
The new buyer will be joining a very long list of owners over the last 500 years, including the English rock group Genesis, though their presence left a somewhat invisible touch.
‘The interest in the estate has been phenomenal,’ Paul Nicoll of Argyll land managers The Estates Office told The Oban Times, ‘even though it has only just come to the market with several viewings already lined up and many more enquiries coming forward.’
For centuries Pennyghael lay in the hands of the McGilvrays, from the first recorded Laird of Pennyghael, Archibald McIluray who died in 1565, to the last, Hugh McGilvray of Pennyghael, who sold the estate in 1801. A Canadian William MacGillivray of the North West Company, Montreal, then bought Pennyghael Estate and built its present house in 1819, but died before he could move in.
In 1920, Pennyghael Estate was purchased by the Pettigrews, who added the house’s two wings and then, when Mrs Pettigrew died, sold it to a Mr Harold Flower, in whose family it remained for the next two generations.
The Buildings At Risk Register For Scotland noted Pennyghael House lay ‘largely unoccupied between 1957-1971’ and then in ‘erratic use’ before it was bought in 1986 by Genesis, famous for hit songs, Home By The Sea and Invisible Touch.
An inspection in 1992 found the house ‘rapidly becoming derelict, with the front door lying rotten and unsecured’, and ‘livestock often gaining access’. In 1993 the band undertook repairs to make the house wind and watertight, but four years later, another inspection revealed rot and ‘the hall used for hay storage’.
Genesis sold the house later in 1997 to Dutch firm Epsilon, but, after a decade, it was reported to be in such an ‘advanced state of dilapidation’, with a leaking roof and ‘a sapling growing on the porch’, that it required ‘£500,000 worth of repairs’. The last inspection in 2012 found parts of the roof had collapsed and ‘evidence of vandalism’.
Visitors in 2017, in a spoof Homes Under The Hammer video on YouTube, described the property as ‘perfect for any aspiring axe-murderer: it’s creepy, vacant, and you could make a killing!’
Today, though, Pennyghael Estate ‘offers a multitude of opportunities to buyers’, according to Knight Frank’s sales brochure, ‘whether it’s sporting, creating a farming business, eco-tourism development, woodland creation, rewilding or natural capital’.
The ‘derelict’ house is ‘a beautifully positioned former lodge in need of full restoration or replacement’, it continues, with a ‘potential site for a new lodge’.
The estate is 4.2 miles long and 4.7 miles wide, comprising 8.7 miles of rugged coastline facing the Firth of Lorne to the south and Loch Scridain in the north – which includes a floating pier and timber-loading facility excluded from the sale.
It also includes the ancient farms of Beach, Torrans, Killunaig, Pennycross and Pennyghael – though there are currently no farm operations – and five houses: Killunaig Farmhouse and Killunaig Bothy, The Old Post Office, Torrans House, and a Keeper’s Cottage attached to an Estate Office.
There is one full-time employee who acts as the Estate Manager and lives on site, with the brochure saying: ‘The purchasers would be required to take on the current employee.’
As a sporting estate, it offers red deer stalking, trout fishing, and game shooting for pheasant, partridge, ducks, geese, woodcock and snipe. There are also wild goats and soay sheep on the hill.
It also presents a number of ‘potentially valuable carbon capture opportunities’, with four potential hydro schemes identified on the Rivers Beach, Leidle, Abhainn an Easa Mhoir and Abhainn nan Torr.’
‘That’s All’, as Genesis might say.