On the 1st March 1957 the Isle of Rum was sold by Lady Monica Bullough to the Nature Conservancy Council for £23,000 ‘to be used as a nature reserve in perpetuity and Kinloch Castle maintained as far as may be practical’. Only the land the mausoleum stands on at Harris remains in the ownership of the Bullough family. On 4th April the same year, the island was designated a National Nature Reserve (NNR).
Because the previous private owners had discouraged members of the public from visiting, Rum became known as the ‘forbidden island’ and had never really become a tourist destination, at any level. As a result the Nature Conservancy was able to take full advantage of being able to study the distribution and movement of plants and animals without any disturbance. There was also an ambitious plan to restore the natural vegetation of the island, including the once native trees that had been cleared. The remaining sheep and cattle were eventually removed from the island in the following years and the last shepherds that had been living out on the island at Kilmory and Harris also left.
National Nature Reserve
In July 1957, Peter Wormell was appointed as the first Warden / Naturalist of the Rum reserve. Initial investigations were to survey the plants, wildlife and geology of the island. Deer research was initially started by the Nature Conservancy and then taken over by Cambridge University. It didn’t take long for this project to start having major implications for the management of deer on mainland estates.
When surveyed, it was decided that Rum had very little land suitable for commercial grazing or forestry enterprises which enabled efforts to be directed towards the recreation of the scrubby natural woodland that once covered Rum. This is still an aspiration for Scottish Natural Heritage, the present custodians of the Rum NNR. [Previous owners of the island unwittingly started this regeneration process, by the planting of trees, firstly in the 1850’s in the dairy woods behind the present Craft shop and then the establishment of woodland on both the north and south shores of Loch Scresort by John and George Bullough in the 1890’s.]
The Nature Conservancy Council became Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in Scotland in 1991. Please follow this link to read the SNH 'Story of Rum' which gives background information about the Rum National Nature Reserve.
As time went on, more people came to Rum for recreation as well as research and a hotel / hostel opened in Kinloch Castle providing a place to stay for longer visits. A new pier built by The Highland Council was finished in 2004 after the introduction of a new roll-on, roll-off Small Isles ferry (the MV Loch Nevis operated by Caledonian MacBrayne) means it is now much easier for vehicles, visitors and freight to come to Rum; previously, the island used a tender boat (called the Rhouma) to transfer passengers between the ferry and the 'Old Pier' - an interesting experience in poor weather! This, combined with the introduction of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in 2005 meant that Rum would open up to even more visitors.
The development of the community on Rum has had to overcome a number of hurdles over the years. The owners have always had to maintain a population of workers to carry out the work of the island; the workers have always had to have decent living conditions and way of life and to an extent this is hard to achieve. For many years, houses were tied to jobs and all but a few worked for the land owners. Children go to the mainland for secondary school and when nearing retirement age, most would have to consider leaving, if indeed, they stayed that long.
Isle of Rum Community Trust
During the 1990’s and into the new millennium, more individuals have wished to stay on Rum, in a ‘more normal’ environment and the move to make the community more independent of the land owner began. It was thought, by both residents and SNH that the best way to create a sustainable community would be to focus on Rum as an important tourist destination and open it up to private enterprise and development to help produce the best array of visitor services and also a community that could be more self-reliant.
Through time, several attempts were made to find ways to empower the community, enabling people to remain on the island independently, and due to the persistence of individuals within both the community and Scottish Natural Heritage, this eventually came to fruition in 2009/10. For information on the status of the trust and it's directors please see the 'About Us' section of the IRCT page.
The Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT) was established in 2007 with three main aims:
“To manage community land and associated assets for the benefit of the Community and the public in general as an important part of the protection and sustainable development of Scotland’s natural environment.
To advance the education of the Community about its environment, culture and/or history.
To promote for the public benefit rural regeneration, following principles of sustainable development in areas of social and economic deprivation within the Community by the provision of housing for those who are in conditions of need and the improvement of housing in the public sector or in charitable ownership provided that such power shall not extend to relieving any local authorities or other bodies of a statutory duty to provide or improve housing.”
In January 2009 islanders voted in favour of a handover of assets in and around Kinloch Village from SNH to the Isle of Rum Community Trust, and the handover was completed in March 2010. This will provide a more stable future for the people who have made Rum their home and for those wishing to move to the island. It also provides many opportunities for private and community economic development. The activities of the IRCT will allow people to retire on Rum and, even more importantly, allow our children to come back to Rum to live as adults if they choose, further helping the local economy to thrive. See the News Archive Section for news articles and Press releases from this time of change.
The Rum community is a small, vibrant group of people with the shared vision of making the Isle of Rum a real jewel of the Hebrides; dynamic and ready to embrace the future. The Isle of Rum Community Trust relies on community volunteers so development can be slow, but in a short time the Community Trust has created and allocated three bare land crofts, and has a rolling programme of property maintenance and improvements. We have established a housing plots and allocations policy and are in the process of developing a new Local Plan which will enable new houses to be built.
We have been very successful at drawing down funding from various sources, including LEADER, Climate Challenge Fund and Big Lottery, to carry out development projects. Our most recent success was securing funding from Big Lottery and Highlands & Islands Enterprise to build a new bunkhouse near the campsite, which opened in October 2014. Managing a large number of assets with a small population can be challenging though; we need to find collective solutions to shared problems such as maintaining the road infrastructure and balancing the desire for development against the constraints of our off-grid hydro electric system.
In 2015 we will continue to develop our Local Plan and implement a management plan for the extensive woodland around the village which is now in community ownership. The Ranger Service will provide a range of events for all ages and abilities, some in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage. The brand-new Bunkhouse, run by a trading subsidiary of the Community Trust, will have its first full season, and it's shaping up to be a busy one.
So whether you’re planning your first ever visit to Rum or you’re a regular visitor you’ll find there’s ...always something new to discover!