Kinloch Castle buyer driven off

4 Jul 2023
Kinloch Castle, Isle Of Rum

Article appeared in Highland press, March 2023

It was a call that I’d been dreading – last Thursday, Jeremy Hosking rang to say he’d had enough and was withdrawing his offer to buy Kinloch Castle on Rum.

He had his offer last summer, via a charitable trust, to invest £10 million to buy the castle and renovate it accepted. Since then, a minority of people on the island with the support of Steve Robertson, the Perth-based Rum development officer (or whatever is the opposite of a development officer) have made demand after demand on Hosking which he conceded on. Vitriol and lies were spewed at him, claims were made that he failed to meet the Isle of Rum Community Trust, which he did... I was on the island with him. Finally after nine months of this, Hosking has had enough.

The accommodation has been closed for almost 20 years, tours no longer take place - Kinloch Castle is tragic - a far cry from when it was a buoyant hostel where I stayed with my children. Nature Scot, formerly Scottish Natural Heritage, have been spending £200,000 per year of taxpayers money on trying and failing to stop the decay. Visitor numbers to the island have collapsed. This ‘A’ listed treasure should have been monitored by Historic Environment Scotland, but it wasn’t. The Kinloch Castle Friend Association (KCFA), set up 25 years ago by Professor Ewan Macdonald, was struggling to make an impact.

Following a KCFA webinar two years ago, then fantastic help from Kate Forbes, Nature Scot agreed to put the property up for sale with Savills. I wrote to Hosking, a hugely successful businessman who’d spend formative years in Strontian, owns a very successful historic hotel already, and runs many steam trains across Britain. I was delighted when he submitted an exceptional offer last summer.

What also appealed to both the KCFA, Nature Scot and others, was that he employed Hugh Garratt, a conservation surveyor with an excellent track record of rebuilding important historic buildings. Garratt did a budget for the work, and Hosking was happy to fund the rebuild.

Nine months ago it seemed that a great result was on its way, at no cost to the taxpayer. This magnificent building would be restored, jobs were available to all on the island, and within a few years we would have a magnificent draw, not just for Rum but the whole West Coast.

Hosking’s charity was about to deliver on the Nature Scot Visitor Management Plan 2011, which said "Gaining meaningful insights into Rum's remarkable landscapes and nature, and into island life past and present, would provide a fascinating and highly memorable experience for many people. Doing this within an environment of generous hospitality, where the comfort of the visitor and the quality of their overall visitor experience is paramount, would turn this into a genuinely world-class experience."

Castles create considerable local prosperity - think Eilean Donan or Duart Castle, both rebuilt a century ago. Rum has a tiny population, less than 40 on a 25,000 acre Scottish Government owned island. Unfortunately, this story does not end with a good example of community success.

Lorna Slater Green MSP took over from Kate Forbes while she was on maternity leave. Slater wouldn’t engage with the buyer. Stephen Robertson, funded with HIE money, campaigned to stop Hosking, and (a very few) people on the island made the project an unpleasant and impossible prospect.

I too would have withdrawn, and it would have broken my heart.

What now Lorna Slater, Steve Robertson and others, an appeal for £10m of taxpayers money? There are more pressing needs I fear. You have done no favours to the island and broader community of the West Coast.


Angus MacDonald
Highlands Liberal Democrat Councillor and Westminster Candidate

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.