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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.

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 one of 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 Bullough's grandfather James Bullough started from a humble background but had an inventive mind and improved the power looms with which he was working. (For more detailed background information regarding James Bulloughs inventive abilities;  HERE). The firm Howard and Bullough Ltd of Accrington became an important manufacturer of textile machinery.

Kinloch Castle (c) George Logan
Window detail (c) George LoganJames'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 in Glenlyon, Perthshire.
It is said that James Bullough had the ideas, John made the money and as the castle demonstrates George spent it.

The Rhouma painting (c) George LoganKinloch 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' Moniq Photo 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 'nouveau 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 Bulloughs 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.
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 Nature 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.

The ballroom (c) George Logan

Oak Room Painting (c) George Logan

The Future

Scottish Natural Heritage will continue to invest in Kinloch Castle. It is a unique building and one that despite the expense and challenges of restoration, should be treated with great sympathy, not subject to short term fixes that erode its features and character.

Castle Repairs Winter 2009/10 (c) Georgina McMillan

Recent 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 been repaired; the turrets have been repointed and lead work replaced. Extensive roof work has also been undertaken and this will continue as resources allow.

Since interest in the castle was bought to public attention during BBC’s Restoration project in 2003 followed by a Prince’s Trust regeneration proposal, various and varied uses for the castle have been suggested.

In 2013 an outline options appraisal was submitted to Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change. This report marks the first stage in an SNH led project which aims to determine a sustainable future for Kinloch Castle. The report reopened discussions and brought together key stakeholders to review the potential uses for the castle, building on the previous schemes but taking into account the significant changes which have taken place on Rum in recent years, and focusing on key objectives and options.

This working group looked at how the castle and its historic contents should be managed and ways of achieving this.  The preferred option within the options appraisal submitted to the Environment Minister was to retain the museum aspect of the castle, while also allowing a mixture of residential and holiday accommodation in other parts of the building.  Stakeholder engagement will remain an integral part of the ongoing process for the remainder of the project and the Rum community have a key role to play.

In the meantime, SNH will continue to invest available resources into repairing the fabric of the building and conserving the collection.

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

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'

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 june 2019
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