Sale deal almost clinched for Inner Hebridean island castle in need of £20 million in repairs

Negotiations for the sale of Kinloch Castle on the Island of Rum are at an “advanced” stage, it has emerged.

By Stephen Wilkie
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 2:45 pm

The dilapidated Category A-listed pile is in need of repairs estimated to cost up to £20m but NatureScot announced that it is on the verge of selling it.The Victorian mansion was built as a private residence for Lancashire textile tycoon Sir George Bullough and has been owned by NatureScot since 1957. It once hosted lavish parties for landowners and multi-millionaires but last year was valued at just £1.Subject to approvals it will be sold to Jeremy Hosking, a 63-year old English businessman and political donor, for a "confidential" undisclosed sum. The Crystal Palace FC director was reportedly worth £385m in 2020.

Under the agreement, the Small Isles castle would be placed into a charitable trust to conserve the building and its contents and, on completion, to provide managed public access into the future.Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot’s Director of Green Economy, said: "Kinloch Castle is a fantastic asset, but it isn’t a good fit for NatureScot with our strong focus on protecting and restoring Scotland’s nature.

"So we’re delighted that a new sustainable future for Kinloch Castle has been found and that the castle will continue to play an integral role for the community on Rum.”

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Kinloch Castle: Deal almost clinched for sale of late Victorian pile on the Isle of Rum

Interior elements of the 19th century building are said to be in perilous condition, with extensive wet and dry rot throughout the property, ceilings requiring maintenance, and chimneys needing rebuilt from the ground up.

The castle, completed 1897, boasts a long list of prominent admirers including Prince Charles and is renowned for its elegant turreted towers and sumptuous interiors.

Kinloch was a playground for rich Highland sports anglers and shooters and regularly attracted wealthy visitors who would arrive on the island aboard the estate's luxurious steam yacht.

It was one of the first private houses in the country to have electricity, and the sprawling gardens were once home to hothouses filled with exotic pets, including hummingbirds, turtles and alligators.

One of the sumptuous interiors at Kinloch Castle

Following Sir George’s death in 1937 the castle lay uninhabited and later operated as a hostel which closed in 2015.

Latterly the building, which contains a large number of precious artefacts including the world's last functioning orchestrion - an antique musical instrument that once belonged to Queen Victoria and emulates a 40-piece orchestra - had served as a museum, but this came to an end when the pandemic put paid to tours.

A community bid to take over the castle, which has been on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland since 2004, was tabled in recent years, but failed to come to fruition.

It was acquired by NatureScot in 1957 when the Nature Conservancy Council purchased the Island of Rum as a National Nature Reserve from the Bullough family.

There's plenty of room for guests in the dining room at Kinloch Castle Pic: NatureScot

An asset transfer request by Kinloch Castle Friends Association (KCFA) for ownership of Kinloch Castle was rejected in 2019.Professor Ewan MacDonald of the KCFA said: "For us this marks the culmination of 26 years of hard work fighting for the restoration of this special building. This will benefit the island, its community, and the Small Isles."

The morning room at Kinloch Castle Pic: NatureScot