Campaigners are investigating the possibility of a community buyout of the Garmouth Hotel to try and save one of the Moray village’s final assets.
The last shop for locals closed its doors in 2016, Stagecoach stopped running bus routes there the same year and the pub and hotel has long been up for sale.
The coronavirus pandemic was the final blow for its owners, who closed the business last year after struggling on amid a decline in European visitors.
Locals have, however, now signalled their intention to fight for the future of the premises, which has stood near the banks of the River Spey for centuries.
Vote signals support for Garmouth Hotel buyout
A vote among residents indicated more than 80% of the 97 respondents would support a community buyout of the Garmouth Hotel.
Investigations have now begun to establish how the process would work and identify potential funding avenues.
Roddy Robertson, chairman of the Garmouth and Kingston Amenities Association, which organised the vote, said: “We were all really disappointed with the loss of the hotel.
“Hopefully a way can be found to save it for the area.
“If not, we could become a town where there’s just housing. Where people come to live at night and drive to work in the morning and take no part in the community.
“We don’t want that to happen.”
The six-room Garmouth Hotel was originally built to support the thriving shipbuilding industry in nearby Kingston.
In recent years, it has welcomed tourists from home and overseas eager to walk the banks of the Spey.
For locals, the bar was a popular gathering place and regularly hosted performances of the village folk club and meetings of other groups.
Community buyout saved Stirlingshire hotel
Investigations about a potential community buyout of the hotel have been driven by the concerns over what would happen if the building was lost to the community.
Fears have also been raised in the village about a planning application submitted to Moray Council, which would convert the building from a hotel to letting apartments.
In 2019, the Stirlingshire village of Gartmore became the first in Scotland to run its own shop and pub.
The community ran the convenience store for 21 years before securing a grant of £217,000 from the Scottish Land Fund to help buy the local Black Bull hotel – and have since funded a refurbishment.
Hotel was ‘social hub of the village’
A group of residents have been tasked with investigating how a community buyout of the Garmouth Hotel would be run.
Concerned local Nick Walklet said: “We’re really just at the exploring stage at the moment, seeing what the options are and what can be achieved. It’s early days.
“The hotel was more than just somewhere to go for a drink and food. It was the social hub of the village and had been for some time.
“It was also provided a few local jobs, including some experience for local school pupils.
“The only other facility we have here is the village hall. Social isolation is a big problem in villages like ours where the transport system is poor.”