A Deeside community has hailed “potentially very good news” in its bid to bring new life to a historic hotel.
In various forms The Huntly Arms in Aboyne has welcomed visitors since 1432, acting as a stopping point for the Earl of Mar during the first Jacobite uprising and prominent royals including Queen Victoria.
But in March last year it was closed and put up for sale, prompting locals to spring into action.
The Huntly Arms Regeneration Project (Harp) launched a viability study, with a view to later purchasing and redeveloping the hotel under community ownership.
This could have involved partnering with an external hospitality firm to meet the needs of nearby residents.
The group has now revealed the findings of the research, saying it offers a “valuable basis” for rescuing The Huntly Arms “from the path of continuing dereliction”.
It found locals would “almost exclusively” prefer the building to remain as a hotel with affordable accommodation, function capabilities, a public bar and mid-range family restaurant.
Additionally, a number of respondents called for the hotel’s roof line to be replaced with something “more in keeping” with its original design.
But the group has also learned the venue has now been sold to an as-yet-unknown buyer.
It hopes the consultation, carried out on its behalf by Community Enterprise (CE), will prove the value in keeping it operational.
Project lead Dave Marshall said: “We look forward to working with the new owner to support the redevelopment of the Huntly as a viable business for us all.”
There has been a stopping point at hotel site since 1432, and it was renamed The Huntly Arms in 1882.
Community thanked for support
Harp launched its feasibility study in August 2020 after receiving funding for the project from a number of sources.
Alan Emslie, chairman of Mid-Deeside Community Trust, said: “We would like to extend our appreciation to the contributions of our funders, namely the Architectural Heritage Fund, Marr Area Partnership and the Aberdeenshire Economic Development Fund.
“Thank you also for the pledges made by the Mid-Deeside Community Council and Mid-Deeside Community Trust.
“Without their support the study would not have occurred and the future possibilities for the building would not have been developed.”
Harp spokeswoman Claire Fraser said: “We hope the new owners will be interested to see what the Harp team and CE have put together as it is our wish to see the hotel doors open once again.
“Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey and to those who came and spoke to us at the Farmer’s Market to give us your views.
“Anyone who wishes further information can contact us through Mid-Deeside Community Trust.”