With support from the Scottish Land Fund, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust appointed a full time Project Manager in early 2020. This action was taken to ensure a strong start to the progression of our plans under community ownership. Working closely with our Trustees and Operations Manager, Stephanie Cope (who came to us from the Tiree Community Development Trust) is coordinating an ambitious five-phase programme to uplift our guest experience at the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse complex.
JANUARY – JUNE 2020
Phase 1a: Improving the Stables Coffee Shop
To begin the process of upgrading amenities at the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Complex, the Trust undertook work on the Stables Coffee Shop over the winter of 2019/2020. This included the improvement of access and egress to reduce congestion at the service area, and to boost accessibility; the lowering and insulating of the ceiling to enhance guest comfort; the fitting of new heating and lighting to improve energy efficiency; and the installation of a new and more practical kitchen. The exterior of the building benefited from the installation of a new wastewater system, repairs to heritage doors and windows, and a good lick of paint. The Trust would like to thank the Scottish Land Fund, the Hugh Fraser Foundation, and The Highland Council for their support in delivering these improvements.
As a social enterprise, trading in our Stables Coffee Shop is essential to the progression of plans for the lighthouse complex. In addition to raising much-needed revenue, the café is key to engaging our community with work on site: residents visiting for refreshment can chat informally with our staff, ask about progress with our plans, and share their ideas.
– Freshly ground coffee and tasty bakes are also a vital part of our visitor experience!
Naturally, the Trust had looked forward to unveiling these improvements in April 2020 when the site was due to open for the visitor season. However, those plans were stymied by the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant lockdown.
2020 offered the most challenging start possible to the site’s journey under community ownership. The Trust were unable to open the Stables Coffee Shop until late summer, our brand-new events programme had to be postponed, and both the Information Centre and our Guided Tower Tours remain closed until further notice (likely until April 2021).
These circumstances were far from ideal; nevertheless, project work to protect and enhance the lighthouse complex continued. The Trust would like to thank the Corra Foundation, The Highland Council, and the Architectural Heritage Fund for their support during our COVID-19 closure.
JULY – DECEMBER 2020
With initial work on the Stables Coffee Shop complete, the Trust pushed forward with plans for the wider site:
Phase 1b: Emergency Upgrades to our Potable Water Infrastructure
Upgrading the water supply at the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Complex was identified as an urgent priority in the Trust’s 2019 Business Plan:
- The current potable water supply only just meets the needs of our visitor centre during the peak summer period.
- The present pumping arrangement occasionally fails, rendering the site without water.
- When failure occurs, bottled water must be used (generating avoidable plastic waste).
These limitations leave no headroom for expansion as the site develops under community ownership.
The Trust is presently seeking support from the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund to deliver this work. We are at an early stage in our application, but will of course update on our progress.
Phase 1b: Emergency Repairs to the Grade A Listed Keepers’ Cottages
The Keepers’ Cottages are located in the beautiful heritage courtyard at the base of the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse tower.
West Keeper’s Cottage was available as self-catering accommodation until the end of 2019; allowing our guests the immersive experience of staying in a Grade A Listed heritage property, at the base of an operational Stevenson lighthouse.
Unfortunately, this unit is now not in a leasable state due to water ingress and damage. The unit presently functions as a workspace for the Trust’s Project Manager; but, the front two rooms of the property (main sitting room and second bedroom) have been badly affected by incoming water, causing electrical faults in the heating system and localised plaster deterioration/collapse.
East Keeper’s Cottage has been impacted more significantly by water ingress. During summer, the property is used to house seasonal workers (e.g. for Kilchoan’s Community garden) as staff accommodation is in short supply across West Ardnamurchan. However, part of the plaster ceiling in the kitchen collapsed in summer 2020, and the property is unsuitable for winter occupation.
In the short term, the Trust seeks to prevent further deterioration of both units by:
- Re-sealing the Keepers’ Cottages flat roof to resolve the water ingress issue.
- Making good on a like-for-like basis the 16nr timber-framed heritage windows and 4nr timber storm doors and fittings, which are in need of urgent repair and refurbishment to keep the buildings watertight.
In the medium-term, the Trust seeks to return both units to the self-catering market, as they are 1. an extremely popular feature of our heritage offer, and 2. key revenue generators for our community-owned social enterprise.
The Trust have been advised by a contractor for the Northern Lighthouse Board that the best and most cost-effective solution to this issue (which is common among contemporary assets) is the application of Aquashield High Build. This approach has been successfully implemented on the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Quarterdeck – a building of the same date, design, materials and level of exposure – which previously suffered the same problem. Listed Building Consent will be required for this work and the Trust is pursuing this. Our proposed approach would create a consistent aesthetic between the Quarterdeck and Keepers’ Cottages: these buildings should be interpreted/seen as a homogenous unit, and are Listed as a group.
To help us deliver these emergency repairs, the Trust submitted a funding application to Historic Environment Scotland in November 2020. We expect a decision in December 2020.
Phase 2: Enhancing Outdoor Areas
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is an iconic building in a truly spectacular landscape setting. We want to ensure that our infrastructure, through repair and redecoration, augments and facilitates your enjoyment of this space.
Phase 2 seeks to boost the resilience of our well-loved, well-used, but now slightly tired site in the face of rising visitor numbers. By making much-needed improvements to the foghorn viewing platform, accumulator tanks, short path network, and parking areas the Trust seeks to uplift the appearance of the site. In addition, these measures will improve guest safety, improve accessibility, and improve our overall guest experience.
The Trust is pleased to confirm that the Lochaber Disability Access Panel will be supporting us throughout our project journey, to ensure that our objectives for accessibility are delivered in real terms.
The Trust also seeks to upgrade signage and interpretation across the lighthouse complex; helping our guests to see and learn more during their visit. We are therefore delighted to share the news that Archaeology Scotland (through their Adopt-a-Monument programme) has committed £15,000 to assist us with this element of our proposal.
Phase 2: Programme Preparation and Submission
The Trust submitted a Stage 1 application to the VisitScotland Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund in June 2020, and were approved to progress to Stage 2 in July 2020.
Since that time, our Project Manager has been working closely with The Highland Council and our appointed Landscape Architect to finalise designs, specifications, and costs for this proposal. The capital works that the Trust seeks to deliver cover most outdoors areas of this Grade A Listed site, and will in some cases require Listed Building Consent. Thus, the preparation of design and consent drawings for this proposal was a complex undertaking. The Trust would like to thank the Scottish Land Fund for their helpful contribution to consultant costs and Planning fees.
The Trust’s Planning documents, Listed Building Consent documents, and final Stage 2 application to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund were submitted in October 2020. The Planning and Listed Building Consent documents will remain available to view online during the assessment window. We anticipate a decision on our Stage 2 funding application from VisitScotland in December 2020.
Phase 2: Next Steps
The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund can only cover up to 70% of applicant costs (stretching to 75% if certain, specific conditions are met). Therefore, in order to move to the implementation stage of Phase 2, the Trust will require match funding.
We intend to approach The Highland Council with a request to access their Crown Estate revenue allocation (income from the Crown Estate that is ringfenced for the benefit of coastal communities). However, the framework for disbursing this revenue is yet to be finalised. The Trust expect a way forward to be agreed shortly, and anticipate a final decision on Crown Estate funding (and our proposal as it stands) end-January 2021.
Because our guest season runs from April-October inclusive, it is essential that access to our site remains unrestricted during that time. The Trust will therefore seek completion of major capital works prior to end-March 2021.
PREPARING FOR THE 2021 GUEST SEASON
The Trust are pleased to confirm that Highlands and Islands Enterprise have awarded financial support to assist us with further improvements to the outdoor area of the Stables Coffee Shop. This work, intended to enhance accessibility at the café whilst boosting our resilience against continued COVID-19 restrictions, will include:
- An overhaul and extension of the outdoor seating area.
- Providing cover over part of the outdoor seating area.
- The provision of additional seating, with wheelchair-friendly options.
- The installation of a permanent wheelchair ramp
(also supported by The Highland Council).
- The replacement of the existing, worn commercial vinyl flooring to improve edge contours and reduce the trip risk.
The Trust are pleased to report that despite an incredibly challenging year, project work remains on track and we look forward to reopening in 2021.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust would like to thank the following for their support during 2020: