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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 9th December 2000
Issue No 209

Fort Augustus Abbey Has Been Sold

One of the Highlands' biggest architectural assets has been sold to former wildlife TV presenter Terry Nutkins.

Historic Fort Augustus Abbey on the shores of Loch Ness, one of the biggest buildings in the Highlands, has been on the market for two years. Mr Nutkins, who sealed the deal recently in partnership with two friends, said he would soon be heading to the US to seek sponsors, with Disney already expressing an interest. The development planned would, if approved, restore the listed building to its former appearance as a Benedictine monastery and create a tourist attraction with a maze, tropical wildlife glass house, restaurant, shop and traditional Scottish tea room, as well as bringing to life the extensive gardens. Mr Nutkins said: "It has taken so many months of negotiations, but now I can look from the hotel across to the abbey and know that it is ours. "I was amazed that a historic building in such a beautiful location wasn't snapped up immediately. There seems to be a lack of excitement and adventure around just now. Security staff at Stornoway Airport refused to allow officials of the British Museum to board the plane with cases containing some of the famous Isle of Lewis Chessmen, ivory Viking figures from a set valued at 3 million. It was only when the plane's chess playing captain was summoned from the aircraft that he realised the true importance of the six tiny bearded VIPs. He immediately gave permission for them to be carried in the cabin, and even ordered that the chessmen, famous for their po faced bearded looks, be allocated their own seats. The six 3in figures, thought to date from the Viking occupation of the Hebrides more than 1,000 years ago, had been on display over the summer months at Museum nan Eilean - The Isles Museum - in Stornoway after an earlier one day exhibition at Uig community hall, on the west of Lewis. It was near there, according to a report of the time, that they were found in 1831 after being dislodged from their seaside hiding place by a cow rubbing her hindquarters on a sandbank. A local minister then handed them over to the British Museum for safe keeping. Their appearance at Uig sparked huge interest with hundreds flocking to see "The new development will do a lot for Fort Augustus and a lot for the Highlands. "The setting is unsurpassed, the equivalent of the US Grand Canyon." The development would be taken forward by Mr Nutkins and his long time friend, David Mudge, who has four big leisure park companies in Portugal and Spain. A West Highland woman, Karen Gerrand, would take care of the historical side of things. The three formed the company Abbey Millennium Scotland and bought the abbey for an undisclosed sum. The deal was a relief to the owners, Lovat Estates, who have been trying to find a suitable buyer since it went into insolvency in November 1998. The former anchorman on the Really Wild Show, who has lived at Fort Augustus since last year said there would be no "naff and nasty" theme park on the site, which he described as the jewel in the crown of the Highlands, with stunning views up the Great Glen. The 260 year old abbey, set in 22 acres of ground, also has the site of the original Hanoverian fort that gave Fort Augustus its name. It was for decades a religious centre and more recently an exclusive fee paying school. Father Paul Bonnici, a former Benedictine monk at the abbey and now parish priest at Fort Augustus, welcomed the sale. He was pleased that Lovat Estates had not sold the gatehouse but left it as a place for religious worship. He said: "We are saddened about the closure of the abbey but we certainly wish the new owners well. "The tourist venture has been tried before but the only wildlife we had was the Loch Ness monster."

New Shop at Last

A remote Skye community is to get its own shop, providing locals and visitors with a much needed service. In the shadow of the Cuillins, the village of Torrin has around 65 residents, and attracts a considerable number of visitors during the summer months. At the moment they have to purchase provisions in Broadford before heading towards the village and the rest of the Elgol peninsula. The driving force behind the new shop is the Torrin Management Committee which has set up in conjunction with landowners, the John Muir Trust, when they took over ownership of Torrin Estate in 1991. The aim of the committee is to improve the environment in and around the village. Recently, the top priority for the organisation has been the establishment of a community shop. With funding from Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise, Highland Council and the John Muir Trust, the shop will be built at a cost of 24,000. The Torrin Management Committee will own the shop but lease it to a local woman, Marina Campbell, who intends to sell a wide range of goods. The new facility will also provide locals and visitors with information on the surrounding area and the work of the John Muir Trust.

City Status

Inverness was given a major boost recently after claims it had won the fight to become a city. The Highland capital is believed to be one of several towns that will have its status upgraded by the Queen. The Government were due to create one "Millennium" city but are now considering marking the 50th anniversary of the Queen coming to the throne by announcing two or possibly three cities. And according to reports one of them will be Inverness. Originally, four Scottish towns - Inverness, Paisley, Ayr and Stirling - were in the race for city status, but now it looks as if Inverness may have triumphed, joining possibly Wolverhampton, Swindon and Brighton. Although one of those four will lose out, it is unlikely to be Inverness. With Scottish Secretary John Reid fighting hard behind the scenes, it is doubtful the Home Office, who make the recommendations, would risk handing a propaganda coup to the SNP by snubbing Scotland. Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MP David Stewart said: "Obviously I am pleased we are on the right side of the rumour and I am expecting a decision any day."

Devil Worship Altar Discovered

A concerned couple have destroyed what they believe is a devil worship altar beside Loch Ness. Jeanette Robertson of Abriachan, stumbled on the tableau while out walking her dog recently. She fetched her partner, Neil Borland, from their nearby cottage to see what she had found on a long disused pier at Abriachan. The couple say their hair stood on end as they closely examined the large triangular artifact, created from stones. Its internal decorations included standing stones at each corner. Feathers torn out of the bodies of birds were found under one of the central stones. One side of the triangle appeared to be pointing across the loch at Boleskine House on the opposite shore. Notorious satanist Aleister Crowley - dubbed "The Beast of Boleskine" and "The wickedest man in the world" - lived there for many years. Although he died insane in 1947, the house and cemetery beside it are still a magnet to his followers from all over the world. Crowely is said to have performed devil rites at the 14 roomed mansion. Said Mr Borland: "Almost immediately we made the connection between the apparent altar and Boleskine House on the other side of the loch. "The large stone just outside the triangle is presumably where someone sat and looked into the triangle's interior design. It is all fairly meticulous and must have involved quite a bit of work." Ms Robertson added: "It was very worrying and suspicious, giving all the appearance of devil worship. I had not seen anything like it before. "I go there for walks with our three children and the dog, so Neil and I destroyed the triangle, scattered the stones about. We do not want people like that about here. "It was worrying finding the feathers torn out of the birds' bodies placed under the stone. "It is private land and we have asked Highland Council to take down its sign indicating the way to the old pier, in case the place attracts more weirdos." Access to the pier is gained down a narrow, tree shrouded track from the Inverness to Fort William road.

New Golf Course

Five struggling Sutherland crofters who realised their business was no longer going with a swing plan to build a golf course. The course is planned on land overlooking the west towards Melness and Ben Hope. Murdo Sutherland of Woodend, Tongue, said he now intends learning the game if plans to create the nine hole course on a 90 acre coastal site are successful. He said: "Crofting is in a bad way. Farming is in a deplorable way. The land is used for grazing at the moment but there are very few animals now." The land, which lies just 500yds from the sea, ranges from flat to about 150ft high on a site on the east of the Kyle of Tongue. Mr Sutherland, who was born on a croft and at one time owned up to 60 sheep, added that he and his colleagues had decided it would be better to use the land rather than have it lie virtually empty. He explained: "Every view is lovely here. It's among the best land in the area. Tourism is the thing we're trying to encourage more than anything else. I'm sure the tourists would try it." Consultation locally has already produced a positive response, he added. He and the other crofters - Hugh Matheson, Michael Mackay, Ian Macpherson and Duncan Bruce - are now looking for sponsorship and any other cash support for the venture. It already has support from landowners Sutherland Estates which has said it is willing to decroft the land. The plan, if successful, would certainly make it easier for local golfers to indulge their passion - at the moment they have to travel 30 miles to the village of Durness in the west, or east to Reay, a village about 10 miles west of Thurso.

King of the Castle

Historic Scotland has appointed a manager for Urquhart Castle as work progresses on the new visitor centre, due to open in autumn 2001. Cameron MacKenzie moved to the Inverness area 18 months ago from Cape Town. He has an extensive background in the food and catering industries, including personnel and project management. As castle manager, Mr MacKenzie will oversee day to day operations at the property and also provide a link between Urquhart Castle and the community. Mr MacKenzie said: "Urquhart Castle is unmatched for its history and picturesque setting and I am looking forward to being in charge at the beginning of a new phase, which will enhance what we offer visitors." Historic Scotland North Region director Bob McIlwraith said: "Urquhart Castle is a major tourist attraction with its own unique story. "The castle manager will be vital in helping Historic Scotland to present the property and provide the kind of quality service that visitors expect." Mr MacKenzie has returned to the area where his family originally came from. His father was from Inverness but moved to South Africa with the Royal Navy in the late 1940s.

Work With Us

The National Trust for Scotland has called on the people of Glencoe to work with it to best exploit the opportunities from a proposed controversial new visitor centre. Conneach Maclean, the trusts director of operations, said the scheme at Inverigan will provide jobs and pump money into the local economy. His comments follow a move to have the Scottish Parliament conduct an inquiry into the centre plans which have split the community. Opponents claim the scheme desecrated the historic site of the 1692 massacre and that local businesses will not be able to compete with the proposed 66 seater restaurant and shops. They also believe that a woodland regeneration scheme on the trust's 14,000 acre estate in Glencoe will damage the environment and landscape. Recently the Scottish Parliament public petitions committee considered a petition calling for an inquiry into the centre. The committee passed the petition to the transport and environment committee to see if it will hold an inquiry into the environmental and economic impact of the centre, and the land use policies of the NTS in Glencoe and elsewhere in Scotland. Mr Maclean said now was the time for the trust and community to work together. "To date there has been no interpretation of the infamous massacre, a prime reason why so many people come to the glen," he said. "In the new centre we will have the chance to tell that story and give visitors a greater understanding of Glencoe's place in history, alongside its natural attractions."

Charity Event

Highland Acute Hospitals NHS Trust have received a cheque for 105,000 from the Highland Cross Charity Duathlon, which has raised a total of over 1,290,968 for the Highland Community since 1983. Organisers of the Highland Cross aimed to raise enough funds to by a dexa-scanner for the Highland Health Service, but the final amount raised overwhelmed expectations and will also buy 30,000 worth of equipment for the Intensive care Unit at Raigmore Hospital.

Political Roundup

Greater Powers Wanted

A survey of Members of the Scottish Parliament, carried out by American academics, has shown a majority want more powers for Edinburgh. It also found most MSPs expect Scotland to be either independent or part of a European federal system within 50 years. No fewer than 49 of the 75 polled thought this would happen.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy. Showers/rain. Hill/coastal fog patches. Winds cyclonic moderate to strong. Temperature 7c to 11c.
Saturday Night
Showers in the N and NW. Mainly dry with clear periods in the E. Winds mod/fresh SW. Temperature 3c to 8c.
Mod/fresh winds. Bright start. Turning cloudy with rain then showers. Lighter winds in the E.
Early light rain and drizzle mainly in the W. A brighter afternoon. Mod/fresh winds.


This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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