Could former school in Moray find new life as a warehouse for £5million whisky attraction?

Historic school buildings in a rural Moray community could be given a new lease of life as part of a £5million visitor attraction.

The Cabrach Trust has plans to renovate a crumbling farm to create a new distillery and visitor centre south of Dufftown.

Now the group has applied to Moray Council to take ownership of the former Cabrach Primary School – now known as the Acorn Centre – the Victorian schoolhouse and hall so they can start ambitious restorations valued at £837,000.

The buildings would be converted into holiday accommodation, a refurbished community hall and a warehouse big enough to store up to 100,000 bottles of whisky every year.

Meanwhile, the traditional steadings near Inverharroch Castle will be turned into an attraction that will allow visitors to learn about the area’s historic links to whisky while seeing traditional distilling techniques.

Proposals submitted to Moray Council by the trust’s executive director Sue Savege suggest the project would also fulfil a long-held desire from locals to see the buildings brought back into use again.

She said: “The distillery and heritage centre which includes the proposed development of the Acorn Centre is a transformational development opportunity for the Cabrach.

“It will create jobs, bring new visitors to the area, celebrate and protect the cultural heritage of the Cabrach and generate surpluses which will be reinvested in future phases acting as a catalyst to future economic growth.

“This asset transfer represents an opportunity to provide significant investment in the site’s building fabric, halting deterioration in the disused buildings and addressing local people’s wishes to see the buildings, which were once the centre of the community, put back into public use.”

If the ownership of the buildings is transferred to the trust, the group hopes to begin work in October and expects the renovations to be completed in June next year. The distillery is due to open in 2020.

The application will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee tomorrow.

If approved, the former primary school, which closed six years ago and is now known as the Acorn Centre, will become a bonded warehouse and offices for the distillery.

The Victorian schoolhouse will be refurbished to create accommodation for eight people to be used for trainees and other staff as well as being let out to tourists.

Meanwhile the old Cabrach Hall, which dates back to the 19th century, will become a training venue and be available for community events.

Last night Speyside Glenlivet councillor Pearl Paul backed the renovations and believes the buildings will prove to be popular with locals once again.

She said: “There’s no point having buildings lying empty. If there’s a use out there for them then I’m all for that.

“Whenever there are meetings in the old school they are always very well attended. There’s a real sense of community, a lot of people go back for events too.

“The Cabrach Trust has already done a few things to encourage the community to come together to get the area better known as a tourist destination, I have every faith they’ll do the same here.”

Moray Council’s asset management coordinator, Andrew Gray, believes the transfer of the buildings to the trust for no price would represent “value for money” for the authority.

In a report, he wrote: “Bringing the disused hall back into use as a community facility and training venue will contribute to the regeneration of a fragile community in addition to providing economic development benefits.

“The refurbished community facility will likely lead to the realisation of health and social wellbeing benefits.”