Highland Arts sold to store boats
IT IS described by visitors as ‘unique’, ‘strange’, ‘hilarious’ and ‘an unlikely survivor of artistic (sic) hubris’, but it looks like an era is ending for the Isle of Seil’s cult Highland Arts centre, which has been bought for boat storage.
For decades the ‘eccentric and eclectic’ souvenir shop in Ellenabeich has exhibited the works of the late poet, artist and composer C John Taylor, attracting coach-loads of visitors.
However, Tony Hill, who runs marine tour company Seafari Adventures from a quarrier’s cottage nearby in the historic village, told The Oban Times that Seafari had bought the building and planned to create a winter boat storage facility and provide local jobs.
‘We at Seafari have outgrown our ticket office,’ he said.
‘We have a winter boat facility at Ballachulish, which is too far away. Our wish is that part of the [Ellenabeich] facility will allow us to store our boats during the winter. Seafari bought it with the hope we can centralise what we do. We would hope to move into Highland Arts around 2020.’
Seafari employs several staff to book, drive and guide tourists on its high-speed RIBs, and Mr Hill is hopeful the new facility can create more skilled jobs maintaining and increasing the fleet. Tourism has replaced slate quarrying as Ellenabeich’s major employer, he said, and ‘for jobs to be created there has to be some form of development.
‘Whatever is developed it will not be flavour of the month to everyone. We are working with the Slate Island Heritage Trust and the Oyster Bar to maintain coach traffic.’
The trust’s chairman, Mike Shaw, said it would ‘keep an eye on’ any developments in a conservation area, which can bring ‘threats’ but also ‘many considerable opportunities’.
Visit Scotland regional director David Adams McGilp welcomed this ‘outstanding opportunity’ which could ‘transform the economic fortune’ of the area.
‘Seafari’s acquisition of the Highland Arts centre heralds an exciting prospect for developing the visitor economy,’ he said.
‘Moving into new premises will allow the business to handle growing numbers of passengers.’
He said Mr Hill also hoped to provide workshop and gallery space, food and drink production, and holiday accommodation, adding: ‘ Tony and his team will make every effort to make sure developments are sensitive.’
C John Taylor’s son John, who runs the centre, declined to comment.