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January 14, 2009

Assynt Foundation secure major funding

The group that led the successful community buy-out of the 44,400 acre Glencanisp and Drumrunie estates in 2005, has been awarded £250k by Highlands and Islands Enterprise towards the overall cost of renovating a former hunting lodge on the estate. This development will play a key role in the Assynt Foundation’s future plans to attract new visitors and business into the area

The Herald

A historic lodge in the Highlands is set to undergo a £1.5m facelift after receiving funding that will help it to become a tourist attraction.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) revealed that it has awarded £250,000 to the renovation of Glencanisp Lodge. A grant of £785,000 was awarded by the Big Lottery growing community assets scheme for the project earlier this year.

The grants should ensure that the 10-bedroom lodge becomes a long-term source of income for the people of Assynt.

The community-led Assynt Foundation took advantage of new land reforms to buy the 44,500-acre Drumrunie and Glencanisp estates in Sutherland from the Vestey family in 2005 for £2.9m.

The two major grants will be added to its own fundraising to renovate the lodge. Built in 1835 by the Duke of Sutherland, and reached by a single-track road from Lochinver, it is now one of the main assets of the community-led foundation.

The group had been letting the lodge out to parties of up to 20. But there was concern for its long-term future, with signs of water coming in and damp in the dining-room rafters.

After the £1.5m facelift, the foundation hopes to safeguard the building for at least the next 50 years. It will be upgraded for a range of purposes, including luxury self-catering lets, residential training courses, corporate functions and community events.

The renovation will safeguard six jobs, created since 2005, and create seven others.

HIE said its funding would be used towards the lodge’s renovation and the funding of a project co-ordinator to provide support for the project. It will also be used to market the lodge when restoration work is completed.

Major work planned includes the installation of a new heating system using a wood fuel boiler, a new kitchen and improved access to allow all-abilities use.

Adam Pellant, of the Assynt Foundation, said: “We are delighted that we have been awarded grants towards the redevelopment of Glencanisp Lodge. It will become an example of sustainable and environmentally friendly development within our remote rural community.

“This project will be of benefit to not just our community but those who visit Assynt and the surrounding area as well.”

Alison Magee, of the Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have been one of the first funders to have invested in this project back in January 2008. By restoring and protecting this iconic building, the Assynt Foundation will be able to create long-term employment opportunities for local people while generating an income for this remote community to invest back into local projects.”

Neil Gerrard, of HIE’s Community Land Unit, added: “The Assynt Foundation has been very successful in raising the £1.5m needed to refurbish Glencanisp Lodge. This project will help establish it as a focal point within the community.”