Fundraising efforts are underway to bring a 200-year-old north hall that has been out of action for more than 30 years back to its former glory.
Balmacara Hall Community Committee (BHCC) is seeking to restore the Old Mill Hall on the village’s famed square.
The group hope the hall can once again become a focal point for locals.
£590,000 required to renovate
The plans would deliver a modern refurbishment of the stunning stone mill.
However, there is the small matter of finding £590,000 to fund the project.
The overall look of the hall will be in fitting with the heritage of the building and surrounding square.
Modern facilities, such as laundry and black water waste disposal, are being considered to maximise the hall’s use.
A future to add to Balmacara hall’s extensive history
The Old Mill Hall had served as a key area for locals since Lady Hamilton gifted it to the community in 1946.
The hall was used right through to the 1980s before it fell into a state of disrepair.
It bears historical significance to the village and served as a mill and a hay barn prior to its use as a hall.
The building is believed to date back to the early 1800s.
The Old Mill Hall has lay dormant since it was last used in the 1980s.
Decay and vandalism has rendered it inhabitable.
Specialist structural engineers have had to make the building safe.
Fencing has also erected around the ruin to protect locals from any potentially harmful debris.
Now, BHCC wish to bring the building back into community use.
Hopes work can begin from April 2022
Chairman Mike Shucksmith said: “The local fundraising effort and donations coming in at the minute is absolutely crucial to this effort.
“We have come a long way. Now we are at the stage that we need to get the money in our bank to show the capital funders that we have worked our little socks off and are ready to move on.
“If the plans work out, if everything happens as we want it to, we may be in a position to save the hall from April onwards with building work.
“It is important that we are able to restore the building as it was and it is in fitting with our grand square.”
The group is keen to raise as much funds as possible themselves before bringing in funders.
Mr Shucksmith, who has experience in securing funding for projects, works with Sleat Development Trust and has said he has already inquired with potential funders to match efforts made by the community.
Mr Shucksmith added: “Making it look as it was is really important. The heritage is important.
“We have got no other social gathering space in Balmacara, particularly the square which is centre and the place for people to get together.
“This restoration will allow the community to have its own community-owned asset and gathering space again.”
Efforts have been made in the past to rescue the hall before with the last attempt back in 2010.
However, despite the will and commitment of volunteers, issues surrounding funding forced the project to be shelved.
‘It has got great potential’
Mr Shucksmith added: “We are finding the funding element very tough – and we have had to fundraise in the middle of a pandemic.
“The benefit of what we have is experience in identifying and finding funders and we hope to draw on this.
“The response from locals has been really positive.
“We have listened to those and incorporated some ideas in at the back of the hall.
“It has got great potential. It is a super historic building.”
Fundraising efforts are well underway with an event planned for the Balmacara Hotel on August 31.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty will attend, where the winners of a bonus ball and raffle will be announced.