The owners of a historic Deeside hotel who watched in horror as its roof was engulfed in flames have vowed to restore the landmark to its former glory.
Some 60 firefighters tackled the blaze at the 127-year-old Darroch Learg Hotel in Ballater on Friday night.
The flames broke out on the second floor of the B-listed building and quickly spread through the roof.
The scene was under control by Saturday morning, with fire chiefs reporting they had managed to save two-thirds of the Victorian building.
Now owners Nigel and Fiona Franks have thanked their many well-wishers – and pledged to re-open the hotel as soon as possible.
In a statement yesterday, the couple said: “We have been overwhelmed by the kind messages and offers of help and support we have received from so many people who know us and Darroch Learg – friends, guests, members of staff past and present, neighbours and colleagues. We are very grateful to you all.
“The fire was devastating but we have every intention of restoring Darroch Learg to its former glory and re opening for business as soon as we can.
“The hard work starts now.”
Susan Bell, who runs the nearby Glen Lui Hotel, said everyone in the local business community was “shocked” by the blaze – and would be there to help them pick up the pieces.
She said: “We are just about to reopen ourselves after doing our winter refurbishments so I can imagine how devastated they must be.
“I feel awful for them. Nothing has been organised yet but I’m sure the community will be there to help pick them up.”
Neil Allan, 65, owner of the Osborne House bed and breakfast, said he always advised guests to eat at the Darroch Learg when they stayed with him.
He said: “We recommend guests try a meal there if they go anywhere in the village.
“I hope their insurance will cover what will be pretty costly repairs, so they can open again.”
Joanna Whysall, owner of the Deeside Inn, echoed the comments.
She said: “I’m desperately sorry for them and hope they get back on their feet soon.”
Councillor Peter Argyle, who represents Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, said he was certain the close-knit community would get behind the couple.
He said: “They have been running the hotel for so long that they are really well-known in the Ballater community and I’m sure everyone will do all they can to help out.”