BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

BBC Homepage
»Island Blogging
Western Isles

North Uist
South Uist

Argyll & Clyde Islands
Northern Isles

House Rules

From the BBC

Contact Us

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle from the ferry. Picture courtesy KCFA
Once again, I'm blogging out of area, but there is a link with Lewis, which I'll explain.

The Duke of Rothesay, Prince Charles. is visiting the Isle of Rum, south of Skye, today, to see what needs to be done to preserve Kinloch Castle. This red sandstone edifice, erected in 1897, was put up with no expenses spared by an industrialist from Accrington, Lancashire. George Bullough had accumulated great wealth through the Globe textile works. These have since closed.

Kinloch Castle in its heyday, before the First World War, was built and fitted out to make your jaw drop. It had heated conservatories and heated pools, in which tropical creatures swam. When guests were shown into the place, the first room, the ballroom, was an image of opulence. A grand piano stands on a tigerskin. Vases from Japan, up to 8 feet tall, stand in the gallery upstairs. A monkey eagle, capable of taking apes, rears up in a frightening pose. A huge orchestrian can blast out any tune that is available on the requisite roll, much like a piano roll. A bathroom with (I think) 14 different types of showers and douches.

Kinloch Castle, picture courtesy KCFA
After the First World War, the Castle fell into decline. The heating was switched off, and the tropical creatures died or were released into the chilly Hebridean waters. The castle was a private residence until 1957, when the last surviving Bullough, Lady Monica, died. She, and other members of her family, are interred in the family mausoleum at Harris, 8 miles away on the southwestern face of the island. It takes 3 hours to walk there, and it takes almost as long to drive there. Doing up the road is virtually impossible, as the vehicles needed for the job cannot negotiate the "road".

Kinloch Castle was handed over, with the rest of the island, to (what is now) Scottish Natural Heritage. In 1996, Kinloch Castle Friends Association was formed to help preserve the castle in its former glory. Dampness and the harsh Hebridean climate are doing their worst. In 2003, the BBC's Restoration programme featured Kinloch, and it nearly won the £3m top prize. Fortunately, the Phoenix Trust (patronized by the Duke of Rothesay, Prince Charles) has taken an interest, and the Prince's visit is to underline his interest and see for himself the magnitude of the work required. A sum of £5 million has been mooted.

Lews Castle
In Lewis, we have a castle too. Lews Castle. Please note there is NO letter i in the name of the place. This was built by Sir James Matheson in the 19th century, allegedly on the riches of the opium trade. After the Stornoway Trust took over management of this section of the island, the castle was in use as a college (among other things), until its deterioration made it no longer possible to be used for anything. I have seen the original plans, as drawn up by the Glasgow architect Wilson, and they show an equally magnificent building. Lews Castle too needs a lot of money investing in it. Although the background may be resented by some, it is an integral part of Lewis history. Plans are continually drawn up - and continually put in the drawer.

Perhaps the Duke of Rothesay could wind his way to the heart of the Hebrides and take a look round Lews Castle. It would be a huge shame if the building just fell down.

Note: I am NOT begrudging Kinloch Castle the attentions of its royal visitor, on the contrary. It is a magnificent place and a folly if ever I saw one. It deserves all the attention it can get; as does Lews Castle.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 14:15


Most interesting article. I am so glad the Duke is taking an interest; despite the madness in this world, heritage does matter and every effort must be made to preserve our historical buildings and artefacts.

Susy Glossop from Northern Ireland

Good to read your website, even though it does contain a number of errors. This is understandable because a lot of what has been written about Kinloch Castle over the years is incorrect or pure fiction. Constant repetition by various writers has established the myths as "facts". There's insufficient time and space to deal with the errors in your piece. However, it is pertinent to note that Lady Monica Bullough, (not the last surviving Bullough - her daughter outlived her) didn't die until 1967. 1957 is notable for being the year in which, in return for a token £23K, she virtually gave Rum to the nation for use by the then Nature Conservancy in perpetuity as a national nature reserve. For a detailed and (reasonably) accurate account about Rum, including Kinloch Castle and the Bulloughs, see Magnus Magnusson's book "Rum: Nature's Island" published 1997 by The Luath Press. Best wishes for the future of Lews Castle. You are correct to draw parallels with Kinloch Castle. Whatever people think about the people for whom they were built, each is an integral part of the history of its respective island, and should be restored and used rather than be allowed to decay.

G Bullough from Northern England

Hi all The Island of Rum, could you tell me what is happening to this wonderful building. My self and my wife have stayed twice. Regards Howard

Howard Campbell from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP1sb

I think the castle on Isle of lewis is great,we allways go their for a picnic once a week, when we go shopping into stornoway,loads of space for the children to run around and explore

jacquie from Callanish

For information about Kinloch Castle try the Kinloch Castle Friends Association website at or simply click on the underlined link in the main article above. As for the future of Lews Castle, it's best not to vaguely hope that Prince Charles might show interest or happen to pay a visit. Far better to contact his Phoenix Trust, now part of the Prince's Regeneration Trust which has its own website with contact details, and ask if it could help.

Graham Bullough from Stockport, Northern England

This blog is now closed and we are no longer accepting new posts.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy