A West Highland community is celebrating the re-opening of one of the region's most stunning community-owned landmarks, Raasay House, on Friday (September 20) following a multi-million pound restoration.
The Rt. Hon. Charles Kennedy , MP, is carrying out the official opening ceremony at the 18th century house on the Island of Raasay four years later than originally planned. Initially set to re-open in 2009 the project suffered a devastating blow when, following over a year of restoration work and just as the process was nearing completion, a fire gutted most of the building.
Undaunted, the Raasay House Community Company Ltd (RHCC), with the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Big Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland, started again on the £4.5m redevelopment.
The Community Company was formed in 2006 and, using the Land Reform Act, bought Raasay House, its policies and walled garden, from HIE in December 2007. The magnificent building offers a dramatic focal point for locals and visitors and delivers income to be re-invested in community projects.
David Westgarth is chairman of RHCC. He said: "We are delighted to welcome Mr Kennedy here. Well-wishers on Raasay and far beyond are eager to celebrate the completion of a project which has delivered a magnificent building with a stunning new interior, but looking as it always did from the outside, a landmark for the Highlands and Islands."
"The community has worked so hard on this project for such a long time and to see the finished result makes every minute worth it."
Raasay Outdoor Centre Ltd, which was a tenant prior to the restoration and which is a major economic driver on the island, has returned to Raasay House. The business is seeing both a return of loyal clients and is also attracting those who are discovering for the first time, the spectacular views, the variety of walks and the wildlife that only Raasay can offer, matched by the magnificent setting and the comfort and warmth of the house itself.
Charles Kennedy MP, said: “It is a privilege and a pleasure to be invited to perform this opening ceremony. All involved deserve immense gratitude and congratulations for not once but twice delivering the restoration of Raasay House. It now stands and will serve the community in its magnificent renewed condition. This is a truly inspirational development."
The restoration has been less than straight-forward. As well as the fire the project also faced a significant hurdle in 2010 when the main contractors went into liquidation, causing a further delay. Following sterling work by the contract management staff at HIE and the continued support of the funders, a new contractor, Mansell, was appointed and, together with a team of sub-contractors, they finally delivered the House to RHCC on 26th March 2013.
Professor Lorne Crerar, HIE's chairman, is attending the opening. He said: "The refurbished Raasay House is superb, and as a community owned asset it has the potential to deliver enormous social and economic benefits for local people. HIE is proud to help communities develop their own plans for sustainable, viable futures. I would commend the determination and efforts of all of the people involved - the construction team, the many community volunteers, and HIE's range of expert staff, who have worked so hard to overcome the challenges along the way."