With red sandstone battlements, a sprung-floor ballroom, and a prized orchestrion organ said to have been made for Queen Victoria, Kinloch Castle, on the Inner Hebridean island of Rum, was one of the most luxurious private residences of its time upon completion in 1900.
More than a century later, with collapsing chimneys and extensive rot, the “right owner” is now sought for the category-A listed building and its extensive grounds – which included a Japanese garden and glasshouses filled with hummingbirds and, briefly, small alligators – after several stalled restoration attempts.
The mansion – which is just 200km northeast of Malin Head – was built for Sir George Bullough, a textile magnate from Lancashire whose father bought Rum as his summer residence and shooting estate. It is now owned by NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage), which also owns and manages most of the island, a UK nature reserve.
Emphasising that the former hunting lodge was not on the open market, NatureScot says the property requires significant restoration work. The next owner will need to assure the continued conservation of the property while minimising the impact on the local environment.
One of the highlights of tours of the castle, which were halted last year by the pandemic, is the German-made orchestrion, a magnificent barrel organ designed to reproduce the sound of a full orchestra. It is estimated that a €60,000 refurbishment will be needed for the instrument.
In 2019, Kinloch Castle Friends Association submitted a bid to transfer the Scottish castle into community ownership with the intention of managing the building's restoration and reopening it as a hostel, but NatureScot rejected the proposal because of concerns over a lack of continuing funds.
Since then the association has explored alternative funding, and, inspired by their work, this year Angus MacDonald, an entrepreneur based in Fort William, put together a rescue plan to develop the castle as an upmarket hostel and tourist destination, which he submitted to the Scottish government.
MacDonald is calling for €3 million of public money, with fundraising making up the figure to the €12 million he estimates is required for building refurbishment and restoration of some unique furniture and fittings.
He says: “Historically, Kinloch Castle played a very important role on the island, but it could be a catalyst for the economic regeneration of the Inner Hebrides. In this time of appreciation for beauty and remoteness it is very much of the moment.”
A NatureScot spokesperson says: “We feel the castle will best support the community with the right owner, and we have been working towards that goal over the past few years. While Kinloch Castle is not currently on the open market for sale, we continue to work to identify an owner for the castle and grounds.” – Guardian