Charlie Chaplin Walk planned for star’s favourite Highland retreat

Charlie Chaplin with his family at the Newton Hotel. Picture: Peter Jolly
Charlie Chaplin with his family at the Newton Hotel. Picture: Peter Jolly
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HE WAS world famous for his wonky walk as the superstar of silent film. Now, plans are afoot to have a dedicated Charlie Chaplin Walk in the Scottish seaside resort he loved.

• Walk would boost tourism for ‘neglected’ resort

The Newton Hotel where Chaplin and his family stayed. Picture: Peter Jolly

The Newton Hotel where Chaplin and his family stayed. Picture: Peter Jolly

• Project could cost up to £500,000

• Chaplin spent time in Nairn in the 1970s, during his eighties

Local author John Oliver, 72, aims to create a path in Nairn, on the Moray coast, in memory of the silent movie star. He believes it would boost tourism to the “neglected” Highland resort once favoured by the stars.

Chaplin and his various wives and children were regular visitors. He enjoyed being able to walk the streets without being pestered by locals, and played its world-renowned golf courses.

The town was also a favourite of fellow Hollywood stars Charleton Heston and Burt Lancaster, as well as Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan.

Mr Oliver is seeking backers to help create a Chaplin Walk through the town, taking in its beaches and High Street. The project could cost up to £500,000.

He said: “It worked for Berwick-upon-Tweed, which has a dedicated trail for the painter LS Lowrie, who visited the town on holidays, as Chaplin did with Nairn. It brings in 20 per cent more tourists than it previously had.”

Mr Oliver would like to see a Chaplin trail or path marked out, featuring the route the actor used to walk when taking the bracing sea air along the seafront and into the town centre.

The Charlie Chaplin Trail would start and end at the Newton Hotel and have 12 to 14 stops, with benches and information boards telling of the life and many films that Chaplin made. He also wishes to have bronze statues of the film star marking the route.

Mr Oliver has had the backing of Josephine Chaplin, the the actor and director’s eldest daughter, and the blessing of the Association Chaplin of Paris and Switzerland.

He said: “If I get a small controlling body who is enthusiastic, we can make this happen.

“The funding application has to be done by an organisation based in Nairn and it takes more than one person. We need the backing of local councillors and we could also hopefully get Lottery funding.”

He highlighted that a bronze statue of Chaplin was erected in Waterville, in Co Kerry, Ireland, another favourite holiday spot of the star.

The Irish village has also obtained permission from the Chaplin Estate to stage the inaugural Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival.

Mr Oliver said: “That village is getting a boost from the name of Chaplin, so why not Nairn?

“This is the time to make a go of it. We would be the only town in Scotland to have a Charlie Chaplin Walk. It would be a great tourist attraction in a town that needs help.”

In the 1920s, Nairn was known as the Brighton of the North and was a favourite holiday destination because of its beautiful sandy beaches.

Chaplin, who died in 1977, would regularly arrive from his home in Switzerland at the resort’s Newton Hotel with his wife Oona and their children in the early 1970s, when he was in his eighties.

Mr Oliver said: “Chaplin most mornings would take the same route from the hotel, pausing to watch people on the beach and activity at the harbour before heading up the High Street and back to the hotel.

“It would be good for Nairn and business. The spin-offs would be enormous.”

Danny Alexander, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, supports the project.

He said: “I first spoke to Mr Oliver in 2010 and directed him to various organisations. I’m glad to see the project now take root. I wish him every success and would be happy to meet him again if I can help in any way.”