Kinloch Castle – not House as I said in the last blog!
So today (08.50 on 18 8 2022) we are sitting out yet another weather system, which Ken Bruce has just mentioned on his radio show, “The lochs are already full to their autumn levels and if the wind stops everyone will fall over.” This time it is bringing a gale to the Minch, between us and the Outer Hebrides and rain on most days between here and the middle of next week. It is also cold here in Scotland, more so as we are living the exposed life we have chosen, but in this little natural harbour on the east coast of Skye, Isle Ornsay in Loch na Dal the chill ends at the Eilean Iarmain Hotel door and fails to enter its welcoming interior…but that is the beginning of a later blog, for now its back to Kinloch Castle.
Sir George Bullough made a fortune from his half share in his father, John’s, Lancashire Textile Mill Machinery manufacturing company. He also inherited the Inner Hebridean island of Rum from his father and had the castle built there between 1897 and 1900 as a luxurious summer retreat for adult recreation including hunting, with stag heads on the walls, a lion spreadeagled on the floor and a leopard on the grand piano. On wet days, billiards and other sources of entertainment sufficed.
While still a young man he did the usual world tour of the very rich and spent much time with the Emperor in Japan, which is where many of the items came from, and are still in the now deserted castle, just as they were placed under his instruction 120 years ago and clearly visible through the downstairs windows. enjoyed sailing so much that shortly after he returned, he bought the first of his two steam powered yachts and renamed her Rhouma I. She was 221 feet long and he fitted her dining room out with mahogany panelling and unusual swivelling dining chairs, so the feet could be screwed to the floor for safety and easily accessed by the dinner guests as the seats turned. You can see them through the window because, along with all the other items of value, the panelling and chairs found their way into the castle when the yacht was sold. She must have looked magnificent moored in the bay for all in the castle to see.
George was awarded his knighthood for allowing Rhouma to be used as a hospital ship during the Boer War when she retrieved the wounded from the battle field and delivered them to the castle for care.
After WWI with the horrific loss of young men’s lives and as happened to so many of the big houses and estates of the country, Kinloch Castle went into decline from lack of working hands and only piecemeal attempts since WWII have prevented its becoming a ruin.
When I visited during my cruise on the Jean de la Lune back in the 90’s a young undergraduate showed us around the inside of the castle, so we saw upstairs as well.
(As an aside, when we were in San Miguel Marina on Tenerife at the start of our navigation in 2015, Rob and I revisited the Jean de la Lune, an oak-built brigantine that held happy memories for me, and we chatted with the new owner, who was hoping to run her as a training ship. In 2020 she sank while on the same mooring and is now laid up in the yard there awaiting whatever fate is ahead of her. Very sad.)
The fact the rooms have not been stripped one way or another of their valuables is unusual, but beyond that is the fact none of the curtains have been closed to protect the rooms from sunlight or unwanted peepers, means the gradual path to disruption and ruin of the fabric and contents is there for all to see. Although the mahogany panelling, being a durable hard wood is doing just fine as are the dining chairs as you can see.
Part of the building was in use as a hostel when I was there but even this source of revenue is not being used at present. There were around twenty of us cruisers noses to the windows, so that would have been a potential £100 to add to the earnings just for that short time.
Needless to say, the once immaculate gardens are now covered in natural green with just a few concrete planters and a set of steps hinting at their past life. The natural look is more apt for the location of the castle, I think, albeit the 250,000 tons of soil around the building was imported.
We wandered away from the castle and grounds over a bridge towards the home farm and found money had been invested in buildings and vehicles but now even these areas are neglected and the whole area had a disconsolate look about it.
The closed sign painted bold and unmissable hinted at the attitude held by at least some of the locals towards visitors. Some folks were sitting at a table outside the café waiting for it to open, in a few minutes according to the sign, but that time passed and they were disappointed.
Google suggests negotiations are underway for the castle to change hands again but who knows what effect that will have if indeed it happens.
Things looked up for us when, as we followed the shoreline track away from the central area and a familiar enigmatic sight could be seen grazing by himself in the lush undergrowth ahead…..