It is going to take someone who likes a challenge and has very deep pockets to save this once opulent Victorian pleasure palace.
The hunt is on to find a benevolent new owner prepared to invest millions of pounds to prevent Kinloch Castle on the isle of Rum going to rack and ruin.
Current owner NatureScot has resisted putting the once proud private home on the open market, but revealed it is working to find a benefactor.
Choice potential buyers
The government body would not reveal if they were in talks with any interested private individuals.
But a set of particulars are being shown to a few choice potential buyers, albeit with some reportedly dated photographs.
Prominent Lochaber businessman Angus MacDonald called it “a tragedy” that the castle has fallen into such a state and said action must be taken to save it.
Kinloch was in good condition when sold to the government along with the entire island for £23,000 in 1957 by Lady Bullough.
Today, the building has extensive wet and dry rot, the chimneys need to be rebuilt from the ground up, some rooms have collapsed ceilings and the once exquisite furniture is deep in dust and debris.
On a more positive note, NatureScot describes the place as is wind and watertight.
Edwardian playboy Sir George Bullough was a multi-millionaire mill machinery magnate from Lancashire.
He built the castle between 1897 and 1900. It was a playground for Highland sports and guests would travel to the island onboard the Bulloughs’ luxurious steam yacht.
The castle was one of the first houses in Scotland to have electricity and boasted hothouses filled with hummingbirds, turtles and small alligators.
Party days came to and end when the house was closed with the outbreak of the First World War.
Most of the male staff were drafted into the armed forces and visits to the castle became less frequent after Sir Bullough’s death in 1937.
The castle was operated as a hostel in the former servants’ quarters until 2013 and was open as a museum until Covid brought an end to tours last year.
In recent years Kinloch Castle Friends Association made a bid to take it into community ownership.
They wanted to manage the restoration and reopen as a hostel. The idea was rejected over fears of a lack of funds.
Now NatureScot has said that while Kinloch is not on the open market, they are seeking a new owner.
Angus MacDonald of Lochailort is a frequent visitor to Rum. He has considerable experience of renovating historic buildings.
Mr MacDonald said: “It is a tragedy that the castle has got into this state. It is extremely important for the grade-A listed building and the economy of the island that a good solution is found for the building’s restoration.
“I think it is very sensible for NatureScot to explore opportunities, but they need to do this very quickly before the building is beyond repair.
It is a tragedy that the castle has got into this state.”
“I think there would be a viable option for an upmarket hostel and apartments. There is no shortage of things to do on the island.
“That sort of opportunity is very much of the moment, people are looking for escapism and remoteness.
“Not many places are more beautiful or romantic than Kinloch Castle.”
‘Kinloch Castle is an exceptional building that deserves investment’
Mr MacDonald said the best result would be to find an individual who could invest in and operate the castle.
However if this does not happen, he believes a charitable trust should be set up to take it forward.
Highland MSP Kate Forbes added: “Kinloch Castle is an exceptional building that deserves substantial investment.
“I am very keen to support all initiatives to save the castle and have been working with NatureScot and the Scottish Government to ensure they can support any bids for the castle.”
The government body’s south Highland operations manager, Stewart Sandison, said: “Kinloch Castle is not currently on the open market for sale. We continue to work to identify a beneficial owner for the castle and grounds.
“Any future owner will need to contribute towards three key objectives; securing the conservation and preservation of the castle, contributing to the sustainability of the Rum community and enhancing nature on Rum – promoting its enjoyment and minimising the castle’s impact on the natural environment.”
Rum is the largest of the Small Isles – which also include Eigg, Muck and Canna.
It is less than 20 miles from Mallaig and is served by a regular ferry from the mainland.