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The Life and Times of Kinloch Castle

A history of Kinloch Castle and the BulloughsKinloch Castle (c) George Logan

For castle tour information, please see Things to do section
For castle hostel information, please see Places to Stay section
The construction of Kinloch Castle started in 1897 using red sandstone imported from Coire Quarry on the Isle of Arran and took three years to build employing upwards of 300 craftsmen. Including; stonemasons, carpenters, woodcarvers, stained glass makers and many other specialist trades. One in particular however was almost unique, that of electrician, as Kinloch Castle was the first private residence in Scotland to have electricity, with a dam constructed on the Coire Dubh burn for hydro generation.

The bill for this exceptional piece of grand architecture and bespoke decoration was approximately £15 million in today's money.
However Lancashire industrialist George Bullough (latterly Sir George) was not short of money. He had inherited the island and half of his fathers wealth (the other half going to his step brother) while aged 21.

George Bulloughs grandfather James Bullough started from a humble background but had an inventive mind and improved the power looms with which he was working. ('Link' for more detailed background information regarding James Bulloughs inventive abilities). The firm Howard and Bullough Ltd of Accrington became an important manufacturer of textile machinery.Kinloch Castle (c) George Logan
Window detail (c) George Logan
James's youngest son, John also had an inventive flair and with a eye for business was soon the firm's senior partner. He imported the design of a revolutionary new spindle from the US and the business went from strength to strength and exported all over the globe, at its height employing over 8000 people. John's wealth and social standing were assured.

John rented Rum for a number of years before he eventually purchased the island as his own sporting estate from James Hunter Campbell in 1888. He already owned Meggernie Castle and estate in Glen Lyon, plus a mansion near his factory. John Bullough died, despite numerous country pursuits, from the effects of the London smog in 1891 aged 53. The island and considerable wealth fell principally to son George, with his other son inheriting Meggernie.

It is said that James Bullough had the ideas, John made the money and as the castle demonstrates George spent it.

KinlocThe Rhouma (c) George Loganh Castle was principally built as a grand hunting lodge to replace a much smaller one, not as a permanent residence. Besides two other residences, Meggernie Castle having been inherited by his brother Major John Ian Bullough (1885-1936), George owned a 221ft Clyde built yacht called the Rhouma. With the Rhouma (pictured in the Bay of Naples, by Antonio de Simone dated 1895) he sailed around the world, in particular to Japan where he had struck a friendship with the Emperor. Evidence of this friendship can still be seen in the Castle today. Gifts such as the bronze Monkey Eating Eagle and incense burners (seen in the grand hall picture), and another of an ivory eagle which has been removed (strangely minus its base) to the Museum of Scotland.

With the outbreak of the Second Boer War, the Rhouma was converted to a hospital ship and sailed to South Africa for service. As a result of this support of the war effort, George was knighted by King Edward VII in 1901.
Sir George purchased a second yacht in 1913 also named the Rhouma. After a recent, no expense spared restoration it amazingly still sails today 'Link', but is now called the Madiz.
Photo of historic garden photo (c) George Logan
Not content with building the castle, it was prerequisite to have a suitably grand garden surrounding it. For this, 250,000 tons of soil were imported; a walled garden and greenhouses built, water features, bridges and appropriate ornaments installed. The greenhouses were for peaches, grapes and other fruit associated with the Mediterranean. There was also a palm house (reportedly) full of hummingbirds, turtles and small alligators. The Palm house was situated on the south of the castle and it is understood that it blew down during a gale. To look after the gardens and grounds 12+ gardeners were employed.

George married 'society beauty' MoniqPhoto of historic Kinloch Castle photo (c) George Loganue Lily de la Pasture (latterly Lady Monica) a divorcee (George being named in the divorce proceedings) shortly after the castle was built. She in turn made her mark on the castle, with major redecorating adding a more feminine touch to certain areas of the castle.
The various shooting parties that visited the island at George and Monica's invite (uninvited visitors were promptly turned away) were not just the 'neuvo riche' of the day but also the aristocracy which George alluded to, for some 'entertaining' frivolity well known actors and actresses where also frequent guests. The famous actress Lily Elsie (Link) was to marry Major Ian Bullough (George's half brother) in 1911 - his first marriage was also to an actress but sadly she died very young. They enjoyed their privileged lives to the full.
Lady Monica's Bedroom (c) Lorne Gill
Besides shooting deer (all the Bullough's seemed to delight in killing anything with legs or a fin) they also had the option of various other activities such as playing squash in the squash court, bowling on the bowling green or golf on the small golf course, and if the weather was particularly inclement a game of billiards would suffice.
When not on the island they had Grand National winning race horses based at Newmarket (link for 'racing details'), Crufts winning dogs and various hunting pursuits (Sir George was master of the Ledbury fox hunt) to help keep them amused. Oh; also a keen interest and patron of cricket.
Sir George Bullough's boots (c) George Logan
However, the heyday of Kinloch Castle was relatively short lived as the Great War devastated those who would have visited the castle, as well as 'all' other social classes, including the Bulloughs on island staff. It is perhaps in part because of this that the castle and its contents became frozen in time.
(An interesting 'Link' regarding the Bullough factory in 1914)

Kinloch Castle is very special and sets Rum apart from the other small isles. Its original Edwardian grandeur though much faded (literally) and walls and roof less able to keep out the rain still impress. From the Grand Hall with its magnificent bronze monkey eating eagle, Steinway piano, intricate woodwork, inglenook fireplace and stained glass windows. To sumptuous bedrooms with grand four poster beds, the cutting edge (for the time) bathroom fixtures and decorated silk wall-covering... Not forgetting electric light.
Lady Monica's Ensuite (c) Lorne Gill
Amongst the many unique features (inc. air conditioning in the billiard room) is a very special music player called the 'Orchestrion'. The Orchestrion is essentially an organ driven by electric motor that plays perforated card rolls. Only three exist and the castle example is the only one that can be played. The instrument was constructed by Imhof & Muckle of Vohrenbach near Baden in the Black Forest in or around 1900. Apparently it was built for Queen Victoria who planned to install it in Balmoral Castle, but she died before it was complete. The sound is The Orchestion (c) Georgina McMillanamazing. [how long this will be the case is uncertain for there has been a recent and bad attack of woodworm. This sadly has yet to be treated].
CD's of the Orchestrion are available to purchase.

If more formal entertainment was in order you could dress in your finest and have a dance in the golden ballroom (see pic below), with its sprung floor, minstrels gallery (musicians from the ''Rhouma') and stunning chandelier. The ballroom is in much need of restoration.

Sir George Bullough died in 1939 while playing golf in France, leaving the castle and island in trust with his wife Lady Monica Bullough. Lady Monica thereafter lived in the castle off and on but eventually passed it (island, castle and contents) on to the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) in 1957 for £26,000, roughly £1 per acre. Rum then became a National Nature Reserve. The NGarden gates (c) George Loganature Conservancy Council later combined with Countryside Commission for Scotland to form Scottish Natural Heritage. Lady Monica died at her Newmarket home Warren Hill in 1967 aged 98 and is buried alongside her husband in the mausoleum at Harris.

Kinloch Castle used to be the location for the hostel. The Hostel is now located at the side of the castle. You can stay (see Places to Stay section) as self catering. The Bistro that used to be in the castle is now closed.

The Hostel and Castle are looked after by a very helpful and enthusiastic team during the year. They also form an important and often colorful element of the island community.

Oak Room Painting (c) George Logan
The ballroom (c) George Logan








The Future

In 2003 Kinloch Castle was featured on the BBC 'Restoration' program and was one of the finalists. Much interest was raised and a determination to have it restored to its former glory. Until recently no restorative work had been carried out!
The image on the right shows some of the water damage in the ballroom effecting the plaster work and silk wall covering. SNH did however commission the Prince’s Regeneration Trust (formerly the Phoenix Trust) to draw up a proposal and consultation study for a way forward with the castle.

A proposal was published, that included removing and converting the hostel area, changing its use into 'up market' rented units. With a new hostel being built in the walled garden. The required funding thankfully or regrettably depending on ones point of view from the Lottery fund was not forthcoming, plans fell through, leaving the castle in limbo as far as renovation was concerned.The Grand Hall (c) Lorne Gill

Oriel Window (c) George LoganRecent restoration has seen the oriel window, part of the reading room and an upper floor bedroom, to the rear of the castle saved from collapse.

The main tower and water tank have had repair works carried out (see pictures below) Window blinds are being considered to prevent further fading of interior decoration has been recommended but this might divert funds targeted for restoration (inc. woodworm treatment) of the Orchestrion.

Plans to change usage and various aspects of the castle are again to the fore now the transfer of land and property in Kinloch village to the community trust is complete.

These plans include converting some of the hostel and (amazingly) George Bulloughs library into self catering apartments.

For those interested in the castle, Kinloch Castle Friends Association have grown from a casual interest group to an authoritative body looking to steer the future of the castle. The association welcomes new members.

Kinloch Castle had repair works over the 2009/2010 winter. Two oriel windows on the west wing were overhauled and the tower was fitted with a new water tank. This work was funded by SNH.

Castle Repairs Winter 2009/10 (c) Georgina McMillanCastle Repairs Winter 2009/10 (c) Georgina McMillan


Interior repair work (below). New floor in tower and protective wrapping on main stair. Entrance to the tower is half way up this stairway.

Interior repairs (c) Douglas KingInterior repairs in progress (c) Douglas King
















Kinloch Castle is a unique building and one that despite the expense and problems of restoration should be treated with great sympathy, not subject to short term fixes that erode its features and character.

Harris Mausoleum

Harris Mausoleum (c) Lorne GillLocated over on the west side of the island at Harris. The Mausoleum is a dramatic Greek, Doric styled temple structure that faces the Atlantic Ocean and has a backdrop of the Rum Cullin. Originally Sir George Bullough had a mausoleum built on the nearby hillside with an interior of colorful Italian mosaic. A portion of the back wall with the Bullough coat of arms can still be seen. Its told that one of his guests made a less than complimentary remarks about the structure, along the lines of 'looking like a gents lavatory', so Sir George had it blown up and the current more conservative structure built.
Having stood for just over one hundred years and endured the worst Atlantic weather, major repairs where required and have recently been completed. The Bullough Mausoleum is solely under guardianship of the Bullough Trust.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) have an extensive database of information called Canmore. This has lots of information and many images relating to the island. A full list of entries can be found 'HERE'

Interior repair images © Douglas King / FKCA. Grand hall, bathroom, bedroom and mausoleum images © Lorne Gill / SNH. Orchestrion Image, Exterior castle repair images, top three images © Georgina McMillan
All other images and text © George Logan

Further Reading

For info about books and resources, please visit our Further Reading section

page updated February 2013
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