Scottish Land Fund cash for Castle Toward estate buyout
Plans to take the historic Castle Toward estate in Argyll into community ownership have been awarded a £750,000 grant from the Scottish Land Fund.
The 143-acre estate, which includes a Grade B-listed Baronial Mansion House, is owned by Argyll and Bute Council.
The South Cowal Community Development Company hopes to develop the site and create jobs. No price has been agreed.
The Scottish government-backed land fund was set up to support community ownership and management schemes.
The estate grounds include the ruins of the original Toward Castle, which dates from the 15th century.
The existing Mansion House was built in 1820 by Kirkman Finlay, former Lord Provost of Glasgow, as his family's country house.
The estate was bought by the Corporation of Glasgow in the 1940s and was used as an educational facility.
Its ownership passed to Argyll and Bute Council in 1996 after local government reorganisation.
The council has been trying to sell the estate for the past few years.
South Cowal Community Development Company chairman Alan Stewart said the land fund grant would drive forward the community's bid to take ownership.
"This kind of news doesn't happen very often and it will certainly lift spirits here in South Cowal," he said.
"The local community has been behind the community buyout 100% over the past six months, attending open days, local meetings, fundraising events and even a record turnout for community ballot on the estate's future.
"This level of funding now means we can proceed in our continuing negotiations to purchase this estate for the community. It does feel as if the whole community has been rewarded."
Under the community buyout plan, the Baronial Mansion House would be leased and developed by a national outdoor education company.
The estate's Gate House buildings would be developed for a range of activities including a tea-room, bunk-house, self-catering units and retail workshops.
Scottish Land Fund Committee chairman, John Watt, said: "In Argyll, plans to purchase and preserve a historically significant estate will lead to a substantial number of new jobs being created which will help to build a more sustainable future for those living there now and in the future."
A spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council said: "We have been working positively with South Cowal Community Development Company as it pursues its aspirations for the Castle Toward property.
"This work will continue and will include discussions about the price payable."
The Scottish Land Fund is funded by £9m from the Scottish government and is administered by the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.