A £3.7 million project to restore a former stately home ravaged by fire is nearing completion.
Located on the Isle of Raasay, the 18th Century Raasay House is currently undergoing an extensive programme of works to restore and upgrade facilities. The project is the second restoration scheme to take place on the site, following a previous programme of restoration works which took place between 2007 and 2009.
Raasay House owners Raasay Community Company is implementing the works, working alongside the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) – the Scottish Government’s economic and community development agency.
Work began on the project in September 2010. Once the restoration is complete Raasay House will be rented to Raasay Outdoor Centre, and all of the income that is raised from the rent will be re-invested in subsequent work around the site.
Mansell is the main contractor on the Raasay House Restoration project.
HIE Skye and Wester Ross Area Director, Robert Muir, said:
“The restoration of Raasay House will provide a welcome focus for the economic and social life of the island and play a pivotal role in the long term future of the island.
“Community ownership of the house and associated land together with the other developments – new village hall, harbour, school extension, new play park, affordable housing, better medical facilities – will position Raasay for a fantastic future.”
Chairman of Raasay House Community Company, David Westgarth, added:
“Raasay House will look externally the same as it always has, but will be a modern efficient building inside; a landmark for the Highlands and the economic driver for a fragile community.
“The rebuilt house will be fully insulated, sound proofed, have double glazed windows throughout, the majority of the bedrooms will have en-suite facilities, and there will be an internal fire escape stairway.
“The public rooms will be fully restored to as near original as possible.”
Raasay House is over 250 years old and once belonged to the Clan Macleod. When the site began to operate as an activity centre in 1984 a great deal of the property was derelict so a series of restoration works took place in 2007 to improve facilities.
The original programme of works was scheduled to run from 2007 for two years, however in January 2009 – days before work was due to be completed – a fire broke out at the site and devastated most of the building. The fire caused a significant amount of damage, leaving all but the west section of the building a roofless shell.
Speaking in 2009 about the tragic event, David Westgarth, said:
“What has happened is absolutely tragic, particularly as the house was looking so fantastic.
“We are all a bit dumbstruck at the moment, but this is not the end of things by any manner of means.
“We will build a new centre. There is a huge amount of community support for the scheme and whenever you get a setback in a small community everybody gets together to overcome it.”
With work on the restoration project now nearing completion, the Raasay Outdoor Centre will continue to develop the site – as originally planned prior to the fire – so that it can create full time employment opportunities for young residents on the island.
Raasay Outdoor Centre Director, David Croy, said:
“It’s a new beginning for us that will give us the opportunity to develop year round business in this stunningly beautiful part of the world. Thanks to renovation of Raasay House we will be able to operate throughout the winter months and create more full time positions.
“Activity holidays, adventure sports and corporate events are all markets that we are keen to grow, and we now have great potential for one-off events, where the use of the house will be a particular asset.”
Chair of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, William Roe, added:
“Raasay is an outstanding example of how small island communities can focus local skills and experience to achieve their ambitions through self determination and teamwork.”
The Raasay House Restoration project is scheduled to reach completion in December 2012.