The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Why Chilean billionair­e built shrine to 8th Century saint on his Scottish estate

- By Moira Kerr

AMONG the super-rich, the usual reason for buying a grand Scottish estate is to enjoy the pleasures of hunting, shooting and fishing.

But South American billionair­e Nicolás Ibáñez Scott is motivated by an altogether more spiritual purpose.

The Chilean retail tycoon recently bought the 750-acre Kilchoan estate in Argyll for £3.2 million.

And, in an unusual move, the deeply religious businessma­n’s first act was to build a beautiful chapel in the grounds.

Dedicated to an ancient and obscure Celtic monk with links to the area, the intricate stone chapel on the banks of Loch Melfort has now been completed – ahead even of any living accommodat­ion.

Mr Ibáñez Scott, who made his fortune selling his family’s Chilean supermarke­t chain to US retail giant Walmart, is well known for his strong Catholic faith.

A devout follower of the Legionario­s de Cristo sect, he has previously commission­ed several

‘He has commission­ed several churches’

churches in his home country, including one at the Santiago headquarte­rs of Distribuci­on y Servicio D&S – the company which was founded by his father, Manuel Ibáñez Ojeda. He was also one of a group of mountainee­rs that carried an effigy of the Virgin Mary to Everest Base Camp.

Mr Ibáñez Scott, whose mother Sheila Scott Battiscomb­e had Scottish heritage, graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a business degree before returning to Chile to lead the family firm.

Proud of his Scottish links, he bought Kilchoan in autumn 2015.

The new St Comghan’s chapel, designed by Scottish architect Neil McAllister, took 15 months to build. Writing on his website, Mr McAllister, said: ‘This project has been a real joy to work on – if at times challengin­g and all-consuming. It is a privilege that many architects will never get to be able to design a building like this and not have to compromise.’

The design has drawn inspiratio­n from the chapels around Iona Abbey and St Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle. This included sourcing its granite from Tormore Quarry on Mull, the same quarry as was used for the Iona chapels.

The double-boarded studded oak door also features handles modelled on St John’s Cross on Iona. Mr McAllister added: ‘Looking at it, there is something slightly strange about it – it still looks new – but a few wild West Coast winters will quickly make it settle timelessly into the landscape.

‘As the client stated, “No one can own a chapel”. This building will stand as a place of quiet contemplat­ion and worship for the enjoyment of generation­s to come.’

The name Kilchoan, where St Comghan’s chapel is situated, is believed to derive from the cell or church of its namesake, an 8thCentury Celtic monk who travelled to Scotland from Ireland.

Mr Ibáñez Scott was not available for comment but John Strickland, chairman of the Kilchoan Initiative, set up by the tycoon to manage the estate, said the new chapel was one of his many ambitions.

Mr Strickland added: ‘It’s a lovely place, it’s very reflective. All those involved in the Kilchoan Initiative are very excited about the project and very proud of their involvemen­t and the part they play, both in the developmen­t of the infrastruc­ture, but also the spiritual side of the project.’

The estate came with 46 acres of woodland, a nine-acre island and six properties.

The seven-bedroomed Kilchoan House, dating back to 1798, has been demolished after investigat­ions deemed it unfit for purpose and plans have been drawn up for a new mansion.

Mr Strickland said: ‘We have endeavoure­d to use local labour and the chapel has been created as a unique and probably exceptiona­lly rare building of its type, using a lot of local materials and local people – and that thread runs through the whole of the estate.’

The estate is expected to employ 12 staff, and a herd of prime Highland cattle will graze the grounds for ‘conservati­on purposes’.

David Wilkie, who is helping to restore the estate pier, said the new owner was ‘very keen and he knows what he wants’. He added: ‘The new chapel is stunning.’

Maurice Wilkins, the retired head gardener of the National Trust’s nearby Arduaine Gardens, is advising on the developmen­t of Kilchoan’s grounds, where thousands of new trees have been planted.

He said: ‘The chapel is amazing. They went to Iona in his helicopter and looked at the abbey and he said he wanted the chapel built out of the same stone as Iona Abbey, so they got it from the same quarry.’

 ??  ?? ACT OF FAITH: Nicolás Ibáñez Scott with his wife Ana
ACT OF FAITH: Nicolás Ibáñez Scott with his wife Ana
 ??  ?? HERITAGE: The tiny chapel is built of the same stone as those on Iona
HERITAGE: The tiny chapel is built of the same stone as those on Iona

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