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Raasay House to re-open this week after renovation

Raasay House is set to reopen this Friday. Picture: Complimentary

Raasay House is set to reopen this Friday. Picture: Complimentary

  • by ALISTAIR MUNRO
 

A HISTORIC landmark on the island of Raasay has risen from the ashes for the second time.

Raasay House is to be re-opened on Friday – four years late after a fire gutted the building, which has welcomed thousands as an outdoor centre.

The original mansion was home to the Macleod chiefs of Raasay and was burned to the ground by Hanoverian soldiers in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden.

The community had supported Bonnie Prince Charlie, who crossed briefly to Raasay while he was on the run.

It was rebuilt in time to receive diarist James Boswell and essayist Samuel Johnson during their celebrated Tour of the Hebrides in 1773.

A multi-million pound restoration was delayed after a blaze gutted the building for a second time.

But the West Highland community is celebrating the re-opening of one of the region’s most stunning community-owned landmarks.

Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy is carrying out the official opening ceremony at the 18th century house four years later than originally planned.

Initially set to re-open in 2009 the project suffered a devastating blow when, following over a year of restoration work and just as the process was nearing completion, a fire gutted most of the building.

It suffered a second setback when the main contractors, Rok, went into liquidation in 2010, further delaying the project.

Undaunted, the Raasay House Community Company Ltd (RHCC), with the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), The Big Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland, started again on the £4.5m redevelopment.

The Community Company was formed in 2006 and, using the Land Reform Act, bought Raasay House, its policies and walled garden, from HIE in December 2007.

The magnificent building offers a dramatic focal point for locals and visitors and delivers income to be re-invested in community projects.

David Westgarth, chairman of RHCC, said: “We are delighted to welcome Mr Kennedy here. Well-wishers on Raasay and far beyond are eager to celebrate the completion of a project which has delivered a magnificent building with a stunning new interior, but looking as it always did from the outside, a landmark for the Highlands and Islands.”

“The community has worked so hard on this project for such a long time and to see the finished result makes every minute worth it.”

Raasay Outdoor Centre Ltd, which was a tenant prior to the restoration and which is a major economic driver on the island, has returned to Raasay House.

The business is seeing both a return of loyal clients and is also attracting those who are discovering for the first time, the spectacular views, the variety of walks and the wildlife that only Raasay can offer, matched by the magnificent setting and the comfort and warmth of the house itself.

Charles Kennedy MP said: “It is a privilege and a pleasure to be invited to perform this opening ceremony. All involved deserve immense gratitude and congratulations for not once but twice delivering the restoration o Raasay House. It now stands and will serve the community in its magnificent renewed condition. This is a truly inspirational development.”

Professor Lorne Crerar, HIE’s chairman, who is attending the opening, said: “The refurbished Raasay House is superb, and as a community owned asset it has the potential to deliver enormous social and economic benefits for local people.

“HIE is proud to help communities develop their own plans for sustainable, viable futures.

“ I would commend the determination and efforts of all of the people involved - the construction team, the many community volunteers, and HIE’s range of expert staff, who have worked so hard to overcome the challenges along the way.”

 

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