Ardnamurchan Estates hosted the latest Scottish Land & Estates 'Walk and Talk' event carried out in this instance in partnership with Lochaber Chamber of Commerce. Owner Donald Houston, estate manager William Kelly and renewable energy consultant Eamonn Coughlan each provided our members and guests with a frank assessment of operating a multifaceted business on the edge of the Scottish mainland. The Estate is essentially a large farm with a beef cattle herd and hefted flock of blackface sheep. Deer stalking, while an important component of the Estate's business and in particular because of the high quality stags they produce nonetheless remains subservient to the agricultural outputs. Donald finishes much of the estate livestock on his Black Isle property. Renewable energy is a growing part of the mix. Biomass powers Glenborrodale Castle and the newly acquired Kilchoan House Hotel, Mingary Castle and other properties on the estate. Hydro has been revived and wave power applied to salmon farming operations. The Estate employs 50 people on the peninsula which is a larger workforce than that of the Highland Council. The newly rebuilt 13c Mingary Castle and Glenborrodale Hotel together with a wide range of accommodations on and off the estate help provide for the huge summer influx of visitors, when the population soars from its resident 150 to 3.5k. This welcome source of revenue brings its own problems however and the single track roads and other local services are stretched to breaking point. Mingary, opened this year as a top quality place to stay and be pampered, would have collapsed into the Sound of Mull had it been left as a ruin. With the support of Historic Environment Scotland, Donald was given permission to embark on a unique restoration including the development of accommodation within the curtain wall. Local community support for the project and the establishment of the Mingary castle trust, was also instrumental in the success of the project.
Donald is a very hands on owner, with a robust attitude to his businesses and to the bureaucrats he believes are holding back Rural Scotland but he is also passionate about Ardnamurchan and the community around him and it appears that they feel much the same about him.