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Case Studies > Drimnin Estate

Morvern Penninsula, Argyll


Case Study Drimnin Estate Morvern Penninsula, Argyll www.helpingithappen.co.uk
Case Study Drimnin Estate It has been my pleasure to work with the owners of Drimnin Estate on the Morvern Peninsula for around two and half years, and I consider them worthy entrants for the Helping it Happen Awards. My involvement has largely been as part of their plans to construct a new whisky distillery on the site of disused farm buildings adjacent to the main house. In this time, I have learnt more and more about the history of the estate, and in particular, the parlous conditions of the buildings they inherited when they purchased the estate in 2002, and the limited role which the estate was playing in the local rural economy at this point. Challenged primarily by geography (it lies around an hours drive along mainly single track roads from the Corran Ferry Crossing), but also by the slow decline in the estates' fortunes since 1845, the Lewis family have consistently innovated and invested in the estate, its infrastructure and the enterprises and livelihoods which it supports. The passion and drive of the family has seen a range of projects realised on the estate, some of which are fairly typical of Highland estates, such as the conversion of unused estate properties for holiday lets, but others which are more innovative and make not only a contribution to the rural economy, but also to the cultural heritage of the local area. This is most ably illustrated by the 4 year restoration of St Columba's Chapel, which lies on the shores of the Sound of Mull. The estate restored the chapel to its original form in 2008-12, with the addition of important modern conveniences such as electricity and heating. This included repairs to the stonework, a new slate roof, and the replacement of the stone render with traditional Scottish lime harling. A second hand bell, cast in London in 1862, was installed to replace the one removed when the Chapel was taken out of use during WW2. The restoration was completed in 2012 with funds raised by St.Columba's Drimnin Trust and hosted its first wedding in 128 years, in September 2010. In recent years, the Estate has undergone extensive restoration. Achleanan, the old lodge, and the former housekeeper's residence have been brought back into use as dwellings for holiday lets. The Hermitage, Ach na Criche, The Mains (home farm), the boat house and Drimnin House have been restored; cattle farming has been expanded; new woodlands have been planted and conservation of the ancient woodlands continued. Today the Estate is a busy farm, offering stalking, fishing, cycling and hiking activities, has a growing variety of holiday accommodation, is home to a resident wildlife and landscape artist, and can host weddings and musical events in the recently restored chapel. The farm has Luing and Highland cattle, and a variety of sheep and wild deer on the hill, selling its meat locally. The latest addition to the estate, a new small distillery for single malt Scotch whisky, was completed in March 2017, and now occupies the historic farm buildings adjacent to Drimnin House, producing a premium single malt using renewable energy from wood chip harvested in the Estate forests and creating high quality employment opportunities for local residents. Visitors will be welcomed from Morvern and by boat from Mull and passing yachts, with a tour that will include a tasting in a conversion of the old greenhouse with spectacular views over Tobermory and Mull and out to the Atlantic. The distillery has been developed by an associated company, Drimnin Distillery Limited, and has been managed by one of the Lewis family daughters from concept to completion. Not content to sit back and take satisfaction from what has been achieved in teh past 15 years, the estate also hopes to generate renewable electricity as well as heat through a run-of-the-river hydro scheme in the upper reaches of the Mungosdail River. A long term forest plan has recently been completed which aims to achieve economic viability for the commercial forests, conservation of the ancient native woodlands and the planting of new woodland, in particular on the northern bank of the Mungosdail River. The old drovers' inn at Doirlinn is scheduled for restoration within the next few years. I have been involved with many dozens of estates over my 20 year career as a rural professional, from extensive arable estates in the Borders to remote outposts in the Orkneys, but have never once encountered an estate which is managed with such a vision and passion for what can be achieved by working with geography and the community, rather than against them. Neil Harrison Alnwick
Scottish Land & Estates
Stuart House, Eskmills Business Park, Musselburgh, EH21 7PB

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