A historic Highland church could be given a new lease of life as an indoor climbing sports centre.
A £1million conversion plan has been unveiled for MacIntosh Memorial Church in Fassifern Road, Fort William, which has been closed since 2007.
Mountain training instructor Oliver Millington, 23, and his 25-year-old girlfriend, Naomi Hatto, who is a sports massage therapist, have been granted planning permission and listed building consent to convert the building.
The couple, who moved to the Lochaber town from Edinburgh, are planning to start work on the grade 3-listed property as soon as possible and are hoping to open the first phase of their new business venture early next spring.
This will involve renovating an extension on the side of the church and building to accommodate a bouldering wall, which is shorter than a climbing wall and is climbed without ropes and harnesses.
They will then start work on the main building, which will feature a climbing wall, another bouldering wall, a cafe, a sports massage facility and a soft play area.
Miss Hatto’s parents, Peter and Charlotte, of Roy Bridge, are also involved in the business, which will be called Three Wise Monkeys Climbing.
Mr Millington said he had been in Lochaber on a climbing instructor assessment course when he discovered the church was on the market.
He said: “A couple of months later, the penny dropped and I realised it would make a great indoor climbing sports centre as it has a height of around 13m (42.5ft).
“Naomi’s parents bought the building to secure it for the business and we are keen to start work on it as soon as possible.
“The church is ideal for this purpose – it’s a big, old building, it’s a good height, it’s structurally sound and it’s in a great location, with steps straight off the High Street.”
He said the previous owner had stripped out a lot of the original fixtures and fittings, but the plan was to retain as much of the existing character of the property as possible.
“We intend to use the old pews as benches and tables in the cafe and to integrate the pulpit into the reception area,” he added.
“The stained glass windows will also be retained as feature windows in the centre.”
He added that the team had put a price tag of between £500,000 and £1million on the project.