A royal railway station destroyed in a huge blaze will rise from the ashes.
The historic Old Royal Station in Ballater – used by Queen Victoria on her trips to nearby Balmoral Castle – went up in flames on May 12.
Locals described the building, which houses a railway museum, restaurant, visitor centre and businesses, as the “centrepiece” of the village and called for it to be rebuilt.
Now Aberdeenshire Council has confirmed they will restore the B-listed building, retaining its original features where possible.
The authority will work closely with Historic Scotland on the redevelopment, which they expect to take up to two years.
Janelle Clark, area manager for Marr, said: “We understand the local community is keen to see this wonderful building restored but this is the start of what will be a long process and I ask for their patience as we work to create the most appropriate plan of action going forward.”
Last night the news was welcomed by the community, with the chairman of Ballater Heritage Society describing it as “fantastic”.
Alistair Cassie, who is also a local businessman, said: “The building is the nucleus of the village historically and it is the centre really in some ways.
“I hope they have got plenty photographs to work from, the Victorian waiting room is very important and they should keep that.
“It is a very important part of history.
“I think it is worth the extra effort to make it right. It will never be the same, we know that, but if we get it as close as possible that would be good.”
Nearly 50 firefighters worked for three hours to bring the fire under control, but the flames quickly spread through the wooden building and all but destroyed the museum, which featured the original Victorian waiting room.
However, firefighters were able to save a replica of the Royal carriage used by Queen Victoria, which Prince Charles officially opened in 2008 after suggesting it could be a popular addition to the museum.
For the businesses within the building – which included a photography and clothing shop – the fire has left a question mark over their future in the village.
Lucy Lafferty, who ran her clothing shop from the station, said two years was a “long time” to wait, and that rent for other premises in the village was very high.
She remains uncertain if her shop has a future in Ballater.
Mrs Lafferty, who has not yet been able to survey the damage of her shop to see if anything can be salvaged, added: “Two years is a long way off, there is not anything else available just now. I don’t know what I am doing at the moment.”
In the meantime, a community appeal has been launched to raise £8,000 to help those affected by the fire.
Councillor Geva Blackett launched the online fundraiser, which also has the support of Ballater and Crathie Community Council and Ballater Business Association.
She said: “As it is going to take two years to rebuild it people need support during that time.
“Rents are quite high here so at the moment we don’t know what support we are going to need to give people and we agreed to just get on and raise the money.”
She said despite the council commitment, rebuilding the structure would involve the help of the community.
Mrs Blackett added: “The community is a strong community and the really important message is that Ballater is still open for business.
“You can’t have a fire of that magnitude and say it is the same place but there is still a strong community there.”
Police and fire officers are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Conditional and structural surveys of the building have been carried out and an assessment is being made of what can be salvaged, while contractors have made the site safe.
Arrangements are being made to accommodate the museum’s undamaged display cases elsewhere temporarily, while the visitor information centre has been moved to the Cairngorm National Park Authority in Ballater for the time being.