Members of a Deeside community are being urged to volunteer in a bid to save a 600-year-old hotel.
The Huntly Arms Hotel has welcomed guests since 1432, including members of the Jacobite rebellion and prominent royals such as Queen Victoria. The hotel in Aboyne closed its doors in March last year due to lockdown, shortly after being put up for sale.
Members of the community formed The Huntly Arms Regeneration Project (HARP) to bring the 600-year-old building back to life.
The group, which is supported by the Mid Deeside Community Council (MDCC), carried out a feasibility study and a survey to find out what locals would like to happen to the iconic building.
The overall opinion was to keep the Huntly Arms as a hotel with a good quality bistro and public bar.
The hotel was sold in March this year, however, according to HARP the new owner is overwhelmed by the scale of the task and is keen for the group to purchase the building.
HARP spokeswoman, Claire Fraser, said: “The gentleman who bought it is a businessman from London who basically buys and sells commercial property, and he bought it online, presumably hoping to sell it on.
“But, I think he’s realised it might not be just a simple task. He may well sell it to somebody else, but we’re just carrying on with our project because anything could happen, it could sit there forever not selling or he could sell it tomorrow, but that was always the case anyway.”
HARP are now appealing for locals to volunteer their professional skills to keep the project moving forward. They are interested in getting advice from people with experience running hotels.
The group are looking for anyone with social media and marketing knowledge, fundraising and grant writing skills, and legal expertise.
In addition, they are keen for accountants to volunteer as well as anyone with building and construction knowledge.
Local interest will play a fundamental part in reopening the doors of the historic building as a community owned enterprise.
Ms Fraser explained: “It depends on the funding situation really, first we have to get funding to buy the place, then we’ve got to get funding to do the place up and get it ready for opening. So, it’s going to take quite a long time and be a lot of investment to do that.
“It’s very exciting, we went to a lot of farmers markets two or three times last year and everybody who came up the stand was like ‘oh my God, you’ve got to get this place open, it’s horrendous’.”
If HARP can not prove to the funding bodies and the local authority that there is a strong public interest then taking the project further will be difficult – perhaps even impossible.
Ms Fraser said that they are hoping creating a larger group will prove the seriousness of the project. She added that several people have already shown interest in joining the project.
“We have so many ideas about what we would like to do with it, make it a community hub and have the bar open and have some bedrooms for tourists and make it affordable for locals.”
If you are interested in assisting with the project, email Claire Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org.