Monday, 19 January 2009

Raasay House in ashes

Terrible news in the Herald this morning about the fire that destroyed Raasay House in the early hours of Sunday morning. The 18th century mansion house, home to the Raasay Outdoor Centre, was in the process of being restored and was due to be handed over to the outdoor centre and the community in April. Now it stands a smouldering hulk.

The photos from Paul Camilli's excellent Raasay blog, Life at the end of the road, tell the whole story in dramatic pictures and the comments posted there express just how much of tragedy this is for the islanders and the many people who visit.

I had a look around the outside of the building at New Year when I was on Raasay and the standard of workmanship on the window restoration alone looked exceptional. Lyn Rowe, the managing director of the outdoor centre, sounded determinedly optimistic in the Herald about rebuilding. Right now she, and everyone else, is just thankful that no one was injured in the blaze.

Raasay House has risen from the ashes before. It was burnt to the ground by Hanovarian troops in 1747 in retribution for MacLeod of Raasay's support for Bonnie Prince Charlie. When Boswell and Johnson stayed during their celebrated tour of the Hebrides in 1773 it had been fully rebuilt in a “neat modern fabrick”.

The new Raasay community hall, just completed along the road from Raasay House is a great example of a new building in “neat modern fabrick”. It looks amazing and, in common with most of east side of the island, benefits from stunning views of Skye.

A small point in the circumstances but with Raasay House in ashes, the Raasay Hotel currently without a licence and Raasay Stores giving up its off-licence service in September the island is in danger of becoming dry.

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