Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Another boost for the Maid of the Loch

Looks as if I will have to start saving for a ticket, as another boost for the final stages of restoring the Maid of the Loch to sailing the loch was reported in the news.

Funding boost for moored paddle steamer Maid of the Loch

All I have to do is keep shuffling along for a few more years, and I can maybe recreate the sailing I managed just before she fell out of service.

John Beveridge, chairman of the charity that owns the Maid, said: “The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has supported us from the beginning, and to now give us £50,000 shows the faith they have in us to get the Maid sailing once again.

“Their support takes us yet another step closer to our goal, and it is a huge boost to have the country’s leading preservation organisation demonstrating this commitment.

“We are most grateful, and look forward, with confidence, to the Maid’s first sail.”

Paul Semple, PSPS national chairman, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the PSPS is able to offer this level of support to help ensure that the Maid of the Loch returns to service.

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017


April 9, 2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, Maritime, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

I once thought about opening a little museum – REALITY HURTS!

Seriously, I really did consider the possibility of opening a small museum dedicated to some aspects of electronics and computing.

I have enough ‘Old Crap’ (of the modern Internet era and just before) to make a display that could interest those involved, and even some older postwar goodies I rescued when I ‘scrapheaped’ some years ago.

However, although I had seen some small museums and collections being shown by enthusiasts around Scotland in similar areas of interest, it became clear that the economics of the idea worked for them as they were clearly independently wealthy or had a means of funding this, even it was as simple as having a home or domicile with space and access that meant they did not need any sort of premises to realise the idea.

While they do ask for donations from visitors (and usually give free access), even those with a small charge clearly do not run their venture from such funds. Having come from a few business setups, I really just couldn’t see any way to find my ideas, such was the limitation of reality.

It may be unrelated, but this was brought back to me by a couple of news items, the recent news that a museum dedicated to Jim Clark would open on the site where a collection to his memory had already been established for some years, it’s about to raise the final £300,000 towards the project in Duns in the Borders., and another that Aberdeen’s Gordon Highlanders Museum ‘could face closure’ – but will be fine if it can raise £100,000 a year for the next three years to keep it going.

Granted, £300,000 each for two much larger and differently organised ventures, but it’s still a reality check for anyone even thinking about playing this game.

Gordon Highlanders Museum

Gordon Highlanders Museum

May 12, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Poor old Kinloch Castle (it’s on the Isle of Rum)

Although I’ve never had the opportunity to visit (or am likely to), I’ve always like the look of Kinloch Castle.

The open arcade (wrongly referred to as a ‘loggia’ – which has a roof or covering) around the building gives it a wonderful appearance.

Dating from around 1897, wealthy English industrialist George Bullough clearly wanted something just a little better than a hovel – his new retreat included lighting, powered by its own hydro-electric scheme, central heating, double-glazed stained-glass windows, sophisticated showers, and even an early telephone system, plus a (now lost) conservatory with hummingbirds, peaches and grapes, and heated pools in the (walled) garden with… alligators and turtles. That garden also contained 250,000 tons of imported soil.

His father (James) had bought Isle of Rum 1886 for £35,000. Inheriting much of the family fortune he spent £15 million (a 1974 valuation) building the castle, employing some 300 craftsmen, and importing red sandstone quarried in Corrie, Arran.

It was eventually sold to Scottish Natural Heritage in 1957 for around £1 per acre, and featured in the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ series in 2003.

SNH has been paying to maintain the building and contents ever since, but even though it is A-listed, it could be demolished as the bill for repair and maintenance is said to have reached £20 million.

At that, I think I’m unlikely to write anything different from the last alarm call for Kinloch, so you should just read this post from 2013:

Whither Kinloch Castle (and many others)?

Kinloch Castle

<a title="< A > title : null
href :; href=”; data-popupalt-original-title=”null”>Kinloch Castle © Ashley Dace via geograph

Well, maybe there is a further comment, after I read this:

Kinloch Castle “faces demolition” due to repair bill cost

While the “shocked” ‘Kinloch Castle Friends Association ‘ may have their hearts in the right place, they also have to move into the real world.

There is no bottomless pit of funding for public bodies to dip into and ‘magic’ £20 million for a building that does not pay its way, or cannot provide some sort of operational contribution.

It’s all well and good to wave your hands and cry:

“Kinloch Castle is a truly magnificent place to visit and we simply do not accept that it is a write-off. It would be nothing short of a scandal if the castle were to be demolished, a scandalous loss of heritage.”


“I can’t believe that a heritage body would even consider demolishing such a beautiful, historic and unique building. It would be a huge mistake.”

But if you can’t also bring the funds needed to prevent it:

Earlier attempts to preserve the mansion, which were backed by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, have failed given the lack of public funding available.

Then your position may indeed be morally sound, but sadly practically flawed.


Perhaps another sad aspect we have nowadays is the aspect of liability, and the fear that SNH may find themselves being sued by someone who enters the abandoned and derelict castle one day, and is injured or even killed.

Even thought they may have entered without permission and wilfully ignored ‘NO ENTRY’ and ‘DANGER’ signs, chances are that SNH remain liable simply for leaving the castle there – and that threat is why they dare not simply abandon it and walk away, and warn that demolition is their option if they cannot fund repairs.

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Whither Kinloch Castle (and many others)?

A recent article on the uncertain future of Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum caught my eye. Not only for the reminder it provided regarding the fate of the building, but for the way it expanded on the potential conflicts that a community with such a feature can find itself having to deal with.

I can’t better a 40-page booklet produced in 1999 that describes this great Victorian extravaganza.

But this text, to accompany the picture below, gives some idea of the effort that went into its creation:

James Bullough bought Isle of Rum 1886 for £35,000. His Son George inherited much of the family fortune and spent £15 million (in today’s money) constructing the castle. Building began in 1897 with 300 craftsmen, and was finished in 1900.

The red sandstone was from a quarry in Corrie, Arran.

For the gardens 250,000 tons of soil was imported, a walled garden and greenhouses built, water features, bridges and appropriate ornaments. The greenhouses were for peaches and grapes and other fruit associated with the Mediterranean. Sir George died in 1939 leaving the castle to his wife who in turn sold it to Scottish Natural Heritage for around £1 per acre.

Sadly the castle has fallen into disrepair but SNH are paying for the upkeep. The hostel in the back will have to move however. The building featured in BBC’s ‘restoration’ in 2003.

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle © Ashley Dace via geograph

Features like Kinloch are, in my opinion, possibly even more at risk than others which have already reached an advanced state of decay, While the latter are obviously in need of help, somewhere like Kinloch, which the casual observer would look at and consider was looking ‘Ok’, have a reached a stage where relatively little money (and I do use the word ‘relatively’ deliberately) would keep in good condition, and able to become, or remain, and asset to their community, and an attraction to keep visitors and tourists coming into the area.

Not spending the money, and this is why I used the word ‘relatively’ a moment ago, means building up a huge bill to restore the place when it falls apart in a few years, possibly destroying not only itself, but any valuable contents within.

Scottish National Heritage told BBC Scotland that some £1.5 million had been spent on repairs to Kinloch over the last five years, particularly to the roof, to keep it wind and watertight.

While that is not an amount to be ignored, it’s a fraction of the cost of restoring the building (if that became necessary) in future, should it fail to have that relatively low cost of ownership maintained.

The community quandary

But there’s a problem – Kinloch Castle is on an island, and that has a community to support.

That makes it unlike many mainland features, where the only real issue is an owner who is being financially crippled by being handcuffed to a giant money-pit.

So, the equation becomes harder to balance than in many other locations. Is it better to raise and use funds to maintain the castle, and benefits from the tourists and visitors that come with the wallets and credit cards? Or would it be better to let the castle go, and use any money that can be raised to support the community more directly?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t have all the information needed to even have a stab at it.

I just hope those who have to eventually have to make such decisions do have it.

Via ‘Time running out’ for damaged Kinloch Castle


August 3, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

£75,000 boost for Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther

With too many stories appearing in this blog and telling of museum which are either closing, or threatened with closure, it’s nice to see the occasional tale of additional funding, or protection of funding for an existing museum.

In this case, it’s the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Fife, based in Anstruther, and tells the history of the Scotland fishing industry with a collection of more than 66,000 items. The museum will receive £75,000 in the period 2013/14, part of a £49.7 million allocation to Scottish museums and galleries.

Simon Hayhow, director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, said:

The Scottish Fisheries Museum is grateful to the Scottish government and the culture secretary for continued support for our work in increasing visitors and improving access to our collections.

This funding is vital to us, and allows us to unlock other sources of grants for exciting and innovative projects, such as ‘Home from the Sea’ and ‘Science and Sea Monsters’ and work on developing the museum’s range of public services for the future.

Via The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther receives £75,000

The museum hosts the historic floating vessel ‘Reaper‘ (built in 1902), which was repaired last year, and has plans to take the craft to the south Forth ports in May. Last year, it completed an upgrade to its tearoom, and opened a community curated exhibition, ‘Iconic Artists in Iconic Places’. More new exhibitions are planned for 2013, including “Science and Sea Monsters”, due to open on 16 February, 2013.

The museum also plans to find a site where it can locate a new Large Objects Store.

See also: Scottish Fisheries Museum

Fisheries Museum Anstruther

Scottish Fisheries Museum Anstruther © edward mcmaihin via geograph

February 20, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime | , , , , | Leave a comment

More than £7 million awarded in City Heritage Trust grants

Man with big money bagFunding of almost £8 million has been awarded for heritage projects in Scotland’s six cities. The  grants from Historic Scotland will be used to enhance conservation areas and maintain historic sites.

Edinburgh projects already mentioned include work on monuments in Greyfriars Kirkyard, repairs to an original Victorian shop front, and restoration of a 19th Century listed building. Dundee will see work take place within conservation areas, including work on ‘at risk’ buildings, together with further investment in the Riverside and Crown conservation areas of Inverness.

The grants are good news, especially at the moment when purse strings are being tightened, so something somewhere has to be suffering. Something that could happen under such circumstances is the assumption that big or well-known high-profile cities can look after themselves, and have some sort of magical pot of money that can be drawn on, unlike smaller conurbations. However, as one who lives in one of those ‘big, rich cities’, I know this is far from the case, having watched many worthy building fall into decay, ruin, and eventual vandalism and demolition.

Listing etc is all well and good, but apart from legal status and little protection, it does not come with any funds to maintain or restore properties.

Press release:

6 February 2012

Historic Scotland has announced that it will be offering £7.69m in City Heritage Trust grants over the next three years to Scotland’s six cities. The grants are designed to safeguard and enhance conservation areas, the historic environment and sense of place.

Glasgow will receive £2,550,000, Edinburgh will receive £2,145,000, and Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling will each receive £750,000.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “It is vital that we continue to improve the quality of our Scottish cities to make them better places to live, work and invest.

“Managing our historic environment creatively also contributes to sustainable economic growth by growing Scotland’s construction industry and increasing the availability and quality of traditional skills and materials. Using new skills and sustainable materials in the adaptation of existing buildings will also help support the historic environment’s transition to a low carbon economy.

“This investment builds on our Agenda for Cities and £7 million Cities Investment Fund, which has been launched to build the momentum to make sure our cities and their regions make the fullest possible contribution to sustained economic recovery – stimulating economic recovery and job creation.”

via Scotland’s six cities to benefit by £7.69 million in Historic Scotland grants.

There was further information appended to the release, which helps to explain some of the terms referred to in the release:

February 6, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s wrong with the Forth hovercraft planning refusal?

Ship wreckI tend to stay away from council related stories nowadays. Too many look more like mindless ‘council-bashing’ than reasoned analysis – and I found myself falling into that very trap once, and decided to walk away unless something really didn’t stack.

The story of Edinburgh City Council’s refusal of planning permission for a project to introduce a hovercraft service to the Forth seems to be odd enough for me to risk breaking cover, and mentioning.

The service would connect Kirkcaldy and Portobello, and we noted the testing carried out back in 2008: Forth hovercraft could be floating away, when it was reported that a trial service operated in 2007 had attracted some 32,000 passengers, and near complete approval rendering it “an unqualified success”.

Despite this, and the fact that permission for a terminal at Fife has been granted, Edinburgh’s council has torpedoed the project.

Even stranger is the report of continued wide support from potential users for the service, that Fife councillors have been prepared to criticise the Edinburgh councillors’ decision, and that the support transport partnership SEStran (South East Scotland Transport Partnership, Travel Planning & Strategy) was also snubbed.

The project has, or had, been actively pursued for at least four years (since 2007 but would no doubt have been conceived earlier), but unless something surprising happens, is now dead, as the company behind the service has post patience, and said there will not be an appeal:

Stagecoach Group chief executive Sir Brian Souter said: “This has been a long and painful process. We are completely scunnered and have no intention of appealing against the planning decision.”


Stagecoach said it continues to support a proposed passenger ferry between Burntisland, Fife and Granton, Edinburgh. Stagecoach said it was prepared to put £7m into the project in a joint venture with Bland Group.

BBC News – Council ‘kills off’ hovercraft plan for Firth of Forth

Souter ‘scunnered’ as council rejects Forth hovercraft plan | Edinburgh and East | STV News

(The pic’s a shipwreck – royalty free pics of wrecked hovercraft are as easy to find as hen’s teeth!)

December 10, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

£6.3 million redevelopment approved for Helensburgh

We’ve mentioned Argyll and Bute Council’s £30 million CHORD programme before, first to note its existence, and more recently when the plans for Rothesay were announced. CHORD’s aim is to regenerate key coastal towns on the Clyde, and others in line for investment are Campbeltown, Oban, and Dunoon.

In an announcement that the council claims will see the largest town in the area see “the most major improvement works it has seen for decades”, £6.3 million has been approved for the redevelopment of the town centre and West Bay esplanade, and the town’s Colquhoun Square will become an open space, able to host outdoor events.

Helesburgh Colquhoun Square

Helesburgh Colquhoun Square © Stevie Spiers

The tender process will now begin with work due to start in late February 2012 and finish in early May 2013.

Councillor Gary Mulvaney, board member of the Helensburgh CHORD project, said: “This is arguably the most significant decision taken for Helensburgh since Argyll and Bute Council came into existence in 1996. Independent assessors have concluded that this project has the potential to support and grow the area’s business base and act as a catalyst for attracting new investment, as well as helping to attract new residents and increase visitor numbers. I’m sure every town in the country would jump at such an opportunity, particularly in the current challenging economic climate.”

When work starts in Helensburgh next year, contractors will upgrade the “streetscape” in the town centre’s main shopping areas and outside the town’s Central Station.

Work is expected to start next year, when contractor will upgrade the town centre and area outside Central Station, and improve signs which guide visitors.

via BBC News – Helensburgh set for £6.3m redevelopment.

See also: Helensburgh CHORD Project Updates | Argyll and Bute Council

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

£1 million funding boost for historic buildings

Moody castleDespite the whining heard from some sectors regarding financing and spending cuts these days, it’s nice to see that Historic Scotland is still able to help look after our built heritage.

Some £1 million worth of funding has just been announced to help six historic buildings remain active within their communities:

Drum Castle (Aberdeen) receives almost £466 k to help it function as a wedding venue.

Craigston Castle (Aberdeen) will get almost £250 k as part of a sustainable tourism project.

Stirling’s Smith Art Gallery also gets around £250 k to assist with its plans for expansion.

Dunoon’s Burgh Halls will be aided by £160 k.

The Haining Estate in the Borders gets almost £37.5 k, to become a contemporary arts, music and literature centre, following its donation to the community after the owner’s death in 2009.

Ullapool Museum will receive around £14 k, and will continue as a community resource.

BBC News – Scottish historic buildings land £1m boost

July 2, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Tourism plan seeks financial backing

50% tourism increase by 2015

I always find my eye drawn to tourism stories in advance of 2015, when we will learn if the Scottish Government’s decree for a 50% increase by 2015 was delivered.

Being an industrial type (by which I just mean my business was engineering, not tourism) I always what sort of numbers are involved in the plans intended to work towards this aim.

A recent story regarding some plans in the south of Scotland puts some numbers into the pot for consideration.

I have to say I am impressed, and the thought of getting £50 million back over three years for an input of £3 million is a cosy one – if it is delivered. I would expect a queue of backers wanting to sign up.

A council is being asked to approve a funding package to support a £3m project designed to boost tourism across the south of Scotland.

Dumfries and Galloway Council would put £426,000 into the scheme with Scottish Borders Council and VisitScotland.

It is estimated additional visitor revenue of more than £50m could be generated by the three-year project.

It would also create more than 20 new jobs and safeguard about 900 posts across the region.

The specific focus of the plan is to market the area as a tourist destination outside the summer season.

How the tourism funding package is broken down

* £1,114,037 – VisitScotland

* £426,000 – Dumfries and Galloway Council

* £184,500 – Scottish Borders Council

* £1,288,913 – ERDF grant

* £3,013,450 – Total

Read more in the original story via BBC News – South of Scotland tourism plan seeks financial backing.

June 9, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

National Parks – still can’t really see the point

It doesn’t seem to matter what the story is, or what the involvement is, but I really can’t work up any enthusiasm or support for National Park Authorities (NPA). They seem to be good at promoting themselves, and making sure they have a reason (in their own eyes) for being.

This time, I find my first thought regarding some cash handouts from the European Union is one of “Why is the NPA getting any – it’s not a community”. The communities that should be benefiting from receiving the total cash handout lie within the NPA. I can just about understand a council getting some, as it has a responsibility to the communities it is serves, and we can see what return is to be had for the cash concerned, but not so in the case of the NPA.

Looking at the cash breakdown…

Laggan Community Association received £17,100 and will use part of this to launch WiFi in its area.

Glen Tanar Estate received £15,943 and will upgrade Aboyne telephone exchange, Aberdeenshire.

These improvements will provide broadband access.

Cairngorms Mountain Rescue Association received £10,000 and will buy a new 4×4 ambulance.

Highland Council received £5,000 to be spent on play equipment in Aviemore and Carrbridge.

Abernethy Old Kirk Association received £4,980 and will repair stonework and seal the kirk against the weather.


The Cairngorms NPA will receive a total of £17.715 which will be spent on a Landscape Partnership Feasibility Study project and a junior ranger exchange scheme.

Sorry, but compared to those listed above, there is no tangible or material benefit for any of the communities in the area. Money spent on a study merely produces some paper (and justifies someone’s job) and while a ‘junior ranger exchange scheme’ may be nice, once it’s over, again there is no tangible result to show for the spend.

So, to my tired old eyes, the NPA has frittered away an amount of money that a community could have used to by hardware to improve broadband delivery, or repair some building at risk.

Not good value at all.

BBC News – Euro funds to upgrade internet in Glen Tanar and Laggan

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

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