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Kinloch Castle - a different perspective

I live on Rum, Kinloch Castle is a part of the landscape I inhabit, I see it daily.

It was a busy hostel, then it closed, it was open for daily tours and then it wasn’t.

Today it stands empty and deteriorating contributing nothing other than idle curiosity to the passer by.

The mainstream view cornering the heritage bandwidth seems to be that if an old building can be saved and restored, then it should be. But should it be? every time?

There are a lot of compelling arguments why Kinloch Castle, an incongruous building on a remote island, should not be subject to a private sale and full restoration. After all, it isn’t just a castle that would be restored here, but what it represents – excessive wealth and where it came from, privilege and the resurfacing of a community servicing the estate. Is this what a 21st century Scotland needs to be supporting?

The community on Rum understand the benefits of heritage led regeneration across Scotland and what this can bring to communities, however there are other issues that the future of Kinloch Castle needs to consider along with heritage, such as community empowerment, land reform, the environment (a just transition to net zero) and sustainability. We are navigating new ground trying to find a solution that meets these requirements, rather than one which is solely met by a single individual with deep pockets.

In terms of sustainability, Kinloch Castle just isn’t - unless it depends upon extreme wealth, that’s how and why it was built. In all its incarnations, it hasn’t been financially self-sustaining. Environmentally, being powered by diesel generators makes a mockery of any transition to net zero and whilst the community are working hard to increase the capacity of the existing hydroelectric scheme, this will take time and there may not be funds to include the capacity to power a fully restored castle within it.

Kinloch Castle stands in the middle of the village effectively cutting the community in two. One excessively wealthy landowner could hugely affect the balance of power here; we can see that from what has happened on Jura. We are a small (but thriving and determined) community but we cannot compete with the power that many millions of pounds bring with it and that amounts to an existential threat. We are asking that this be considered and respected, after all that is what land reform is supposed to be about, isn’t it? Creating a better pattern of land stewardship and enabling communities to have self-determination in their own space?

We do accept that anything other than full restoration would be hugely exceptional and there may be a threat of setting a precedent. However, given the location, the history and design of the building and the potential community and carbon impact - a case could be made for exception here. There are not huge numbers of people clamouring to save the Castle, just a very few self-interested individuals who have no connection to Rum.

Cultural heritage can be valued and shown in different ways. The Kinloch Castle era on Rum was a dark one. Where the people were in service to the house, rather than the other way around. This cannot be allowed to be happen again today (especially when we’ve just got rid of one company town model), otherwise we are just replaying the inequities of the past. Rum wants to be forward looking and thinking about the people living here today and in the future.

We are suggesting breaking away from this model and exploring different ways in which the cultural heritage can be told for today's visitors and community. We don't think that retaining the Castle in its current state is necessarily the best way to do that; by doing something different, the castle story doesn’t have to lose its relevance and can better serve the greater public interest. There is a great opportunity to do something hugely innovative and impactful for Rum, the Small Isles and Scotland - which would be open, accessible, inclusive and serve the Rum community, not the other way round.

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