It seems like the bargain of the century. A turreted castle on the isle of Rum, built by a Victorian playboy as his Highland sporting estate retreat, with all its historic interios, to a benevolent buyer, for the nominal fee of just £1.
Hang on I’ve heard this kind of deal before. This isn’t the steal of the century. There’s a catch, isn’t there?
Well, yes, there are a few repairs and renovation. Just the small matter of some water ingress, collapsed ceilings and the like. It would cost probably only about £20 million in total to fix. But think of the history you’re buying into. This was one of the first private houses in Scotland to have electricity and an internal telephone system. John Betjeman once described the building as ‘an undisturbed example of pre-1914 opulence’
It sounds like it has been quite disturbed since.
It’s true it isn’t quite what it once was, back in the old days when it was home to a palm house filled with exotic animals, like hummingbirds, turtles and alligators.
Do you get the exotic pets?
No, they’re long gone. But you do get an orchestrion.
An orchestrion – it’s an antique instrument that emulates a 40-piece orchestra, one of only three of its kind ever made. This one, a little damaged by woodworm, once belonged to Queen Victoria. Buy it and you’ll never need a full orchestra again.
Just what I’ve always wanted. When can I have a viewing?
Actually it’s not been put on the open market. Rather NatureScot are “working to identify a beneficial owner for the castle and grounds”. Apparently a community buy-out was talked about in the past, but came to nothing. You would have to show that you have the resources to look after this Category A landmark.
So who is this irresponsible aristocratic owner who has let it go to rack and ruin?
Actually it’s us, or rather the public body NatureScot, which has been fighting for decades to preserve the building, since they bought it in 1957, when they were then known as the Nature Conservancy. Previously they operated part of the building as a hostel, and in recent years they have offered tours of the main rooms to visitors.
It’s not the only building in Scotland that has been sold off for £1, there have been a fair few
Indeed. Earlier this year, Buchanan Castle, the building in which Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess was treated after he parachuted into Scotland as part of a mission in 1941, went up for a similar figure. It had fallen into disrepair and dilapidation after being left to rot for decades.
Do all of these bargains come with absolutely terrifying renovation and upkeep costs?
Yes, you know what they say – there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Or a free orchestrion.