Scotland's richest man steps in to save tiny Highland museum from crisis

Scotland’s richest man and largest landowner has stepped in to save a tiny Highland museum from crisis.

Anders Holch Povlsen, a Danish businessman who owns 12 estates in the Highlands, has secured the redevelopment of Strathnaver Museum near Bettyhill in Sutherland with a £600,000 loan to its trustees.

A long awaited £2.3m upgrade to the museum was thrown into doubt after a historic legal anomaly was found in the museum’s title deeds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The oversight put public funding for the project at risk – with the future of the entire renovation left uncertain.

Now, the museum is back on track to re-open next summer after Wildland Ltd, a company wholly owned by Mr Povlsen agreed the loan to cover legal fees and cashflow while the matter was resolved.

Read More
Danish billionaire reaches agreement over flights from Highland spaceport

Tom Mackay, Chair of Strathnaver Museum, which tells the story of the surrounding area, the Sutherland Clearances and the history of Clan Mackay, said the project may have been shelved “indefinitely” if the “immediate and vital” financial support had not been made available.

Mr Mackay said: "I am enormously grateful for the support of fellow trustees who have managed to resolve the title issue so quickly and to the full satisfaction of legal officers and our core funders.

Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen is Scotland's largest landowner with 12 estates through the Highlands. His company Wildland has given a £600,000 loan to a museum in Sutherland. (Photo by TARIQ MIKKEL KHAN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

“The team were particularly concerned that any delay to the ongoing project would have had major repercussions on project delivery due to the unprecedented rise in material costs and the short-term availability of some funding sources.

"So, we are all particularly grateful to Wildland for working through the problem with us and providing immediate, vital, interest free and unsecured loan support that relieved the challenge we faced. Without this comfort we would not be where we are today and may even have had to shelve the much-needed refurbishment project indefinitely”.

Thurso-based O’Brien Construction Ltd is now nearing completion of the work on site.

The loan to the museum comes after Mr Povlsen and Wildland, which owns several estates in Sutherland, objected to proposals for a spacesport at Melness Crofters Estate, which sits next to his substantial landholding at Eriboll.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Povlsen claimed the spacesport , which is set to create 40 jobs, would negatively impact on the surrounding environment and applied unsuccessfully at the Court of Session to overturn planning permission for the scheme.

Last July, Mr Povlsen and a Sutherland building contractor donated £11,000 worth of books to the library at Tongue Primary School, which sits close to his Hope Estate.

Following the loan to the museum, Tim Kirkwood, CEO of Wildland said: “The Directors of Strathnaver Museum were in an extremely difficult position, but their diligence and passion for the project quickly gave us all the confidence we needed to do what we could to help carry them and their contractors over an extremely tricky period. The alternative did not really bear thinking about.

“It’s clear that for almost 60 years generations of the Strathnaver Museum team had been working hard to realise a vison that was ahead of its time, to create a museum to enable the people of the area to tell their own story. We trust that our support of the team’s considerable achievements will allow the Museum to deliver even more social, educational, environmental and financial benefit to the communities across north west Sutherland.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.