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December 16, 2009

Raasay House to rise again

In January this year, the beautiful and historic Raasay House on the Isle of Raasay, was in the final stages of a £4.5 million upgrade when a destructive blaze reduced it to a smoking ruin. Community owned, the House was all set to be a key community asset for the island -anchoring its long term plans for sustainability. This isn’t the first time in its long history that the house has been razed to the ground.  There are signs that the phoenix will rise from the ashes one more time

Latest rebirth of Raasay House begins following destructive blaze in January

The historic Raasay House is about to be stabilised to allow it to rise from the ashes for a second time.

A blaze left the Grade A-listed mansion house a smoking ruin in January, after it had been taken over by the local community in 2007. It was in the final stages of a £4.5 million upgrade.

It was due to re-open in the spring, providing upgraded facilities for its tenant Raasay Outdoor Centre and as a key community asset.

The project’s funders were Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Big Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland. HIE has been working intensively with Raasay House Community Company (RHCC) since the fire to get the building back on track.

Last week, the contract for works to stabilise the building was let to allow reconstruction to start next year. The cost of the work will be recouped from insurance.

David Westgarth, chairman of RHCC, said: “To see the house literally go up in flames in January was devastating for the whole of the Raasay community. To get the house so nearly fully restored in ­January was an enormous achievement for a small ­community and to see all that work destroyed overnight was a terrible setback.

“However, there was no question of us being deterred from our original intention and, with the help of HIE, we are now in a position to see work beginning on site again.”

The original Raasay House, which was home to the Macleod chiefs of Raasay, was burned to the ground by Hanoverian troops in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden, along with islanders’ homes.

This was retribution for coming out for Bonnie Prince Charlie, who crossed briefly to Raasay while he was on the run. It was rebuilt in time to receive diarist James Boswell and essayist Samuel Johnson during their celebrated Tour of the Hebrides in 1773.