A derelict building in a Moray village, which had become a haven for underage drinkers, has been destroyed by fire.
The disused 19th-century Glenisla House in Newmill has been left a charred ruin, after a blaze tore through it in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Last night, locals bemoaned the “sad end” to the historic property – and revealed it had been poised for a new lease of life as a focal point of the rural community.
The Newmill Community Association was on the verge of persuading Moray Council to seize control of the abandoned venue and revitalise it.
But the group’s chairwoman, Rhona Patterson, said its ambitions for the site could now also lie in tatters – amid fears it faces demolition.
She confirmed she had called police to the two-storey house on “several occasions” in recent years, with youths using it as a drinking den.
Mrs Patterson said: “I have no idea how this happened, but it didn’t just combust.
“Young people using it was something that concerned me a great deal. The police told me I was right to be worried, as it was dangerous inside.”
More than 20 firefighters battled the blaze for more than four hours from just after 12.30am.
Appliances from Huntly, Keith and Fochabers and a height vehicle from Aberdeen all took part in the overnight effort.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said the dilapidated building was “well alight” by the time the crews arrived.
She added: “The fire appears to have moved up through the ceiling, causing significant damage. The last appliance didn’t leave until 4.55am.”
Nobody was injured in the accident, but the property is currently in too dangerous a state to launch an investigation.
Newmill was established in 1759 and Glenisla House was built on a prominent spot in the village square the following century.
It had lain empty for decades before the blaze broke out, but was at the centre of plans to regenerate the village.
Mrs Patterson added: “We have been working with the council for many years to try and get something done about it, as the owner has been reluctant to act.
“We were just about there with the council, we were making real progress, and now this has happened.
A police spokesman said inquiries were at an early stage, and encouraged anyone with information to contact the force on 101.