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Personally I have always found Rum rather dark, daunting and gloomy, maybe because it just is dark, daunting and gloomy (but in contrast the island website is really excellent). Walter Scott clearly felt much the same in 1814 when he landed as a guest of the Commissioners of Northern Lights from their lighthouse yacht, Pharos — "Rum is rude, barren and mountainous". The anchorage in Loch Scresort is too open, the newish pier is a blot on the landscape, the row to the shore too far, and the midges on land are vicious. And somewhere lurking in Loch Scresort (the only proper anchorage) is a very large chassis which we once found with our anchor circa 1978, another minus point. However, in 2019 10 visitor moorings appeared. The island seems to catch all the cloud and rain on the prevailing wind, unlike Canna from where Rum is so often enveloped in cloud.
The local population were horribly exploited by the lairds in the 19th and early 20th centuries, which you can read all about in 'Bare Feet and Tackety Boots' by Archie Cameron (Luath Press, 1988). Later, in the 1930s, John McLintock complained that "Unless you are a deer you are not welcome". As a result, today none of the 30-40 or so population are indigenous, they are all, or almost all, employees of Nature Scotland (previously the Nature Conservancy Council and then Scottish Natural Heritage) who have owned and managed the island as a nature reserve since 1957 (which of course is good if you are into nature, sea eagles and all of that). The land round the village is now in community ownership, the latest result of which has been opening a 20-person bunkhouse in 2014, and a new amenities block is under construction.
I have not surprisingly been done over for my negative view of Rum by one of the longterm residents on the island. So do please go there and judge for yourself, indeed you really must go there for the big, really big attraction before it falls completely to bits, an increasingly serious possibility given many millions would be needed to restore it to anything like its former glory.
That is the bizarre and crumbling Kinloch Castle, bizarre more in its history and contents than in its external structure which is neo-Tudor sandstone-dull. It was built at the very end of the 19th century by George Bullough who inherited the wealth of his father, a self-made Lancashire cotton magnate. Although it was only his ‘home’ for a few weeks every year he spent millions on it by today’s standards to impress his hunting, shooting and fishing guests — and his French wife I should imagine too. Amazingly many of the original contents of the house are still there in an Edwardian time-warp, undisturbed since the family sold out, and seemingly just walked away in 1957. There is one hundred-plus year old furniture like the swivel chairs in the dining room, originally from his grand yacht the Rhouma, the damask wall coverings gently mouldering, the lion and leopard skin carpets, the amazing showers with their array of taps and nozzles to direct water at whatever body part is desired, the instruments left behind — it is said — by the musicians in the ballroom gallery, the full-sized billiard table with the rules framed on the wall beside it, the note book with the list of injured treated on the Rhouma when she was used as a hospital ship during the Boer war, and the piece de resistance — the still working orchestrion which was originally destined for Queen Victoria at Balmoral. To get a feel for the opulence and wastage of the posh Edwardians you can do no better than read the 'Bare Feet and Tackety Boots' book I mentioned earlier.
But Sir George was not just a dilettante who spent his inheritance on game parties. For example he had the billiard room artificially ventilated to get rid of the cigar smoke, he built the hydroelectric dam which still powers the island today, and he planted the deciduous woodland which is so pleasant to walk in, full of birdsong in the spring and early summer — including cuckoos.
Although John Betjeman saw the castle as the "stone embodiment of good King Edward's reign, a living memorial of the stalking, the fishing and the sailing, the tenantry and plenty of the days before 1914 and the collapse of the world" CC Lynam's contemporary view was rather different: "the new castle of Rum...might be imposing on the banks of the Thames, but is utterly out of place at the foot of Halival and Askeval".
You need to know that the tours are usually in the early afternoon. When I went the guide was a New Zealander which added to the bizarreness of the experience, but then I am not sure there are any Scots on the island anyway.
What the future holds for this building is very unclear. It would need millions to restore it. But better this than spending those millions on weapons of mass destruction which the UK seems so keen on, and aircraft-less aircraft carriers.
There is a shop, post office and a village hall which has a café with bar billiards, internet access, children's toys and table tennis all housed in a big tin-roofed building tacked on to the original farm buildings ([email protected]).
Rum features highly in a wonderfully dated — and rather dull — derring-do novel by the well-known mountaineering writer W H Murray (Five Frontiers, J M Dent and Sons, 1959). This is not a patch on the very best derring-do sailing novel, the Riddle of the Sands.
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The anchorage in Loch Scresort
The old pier
Kinloch Castle, front door
Kinloch Castle, interior