THE proposed transformation of a dilapidated village hall on the banks of the Caledonian Canal into a visitor attraction has taken a step forward.
Boat company Jacobite Cruises has submitted a planning application to Highland Council to alter and extend Dochgarroch Hall to create a tourist hub.
It follows an announcement in August that the company had entered into a long-lease agreement with the hall’s owner – Dochfour Estate – and was planning a £500,000 revamp.
One of the triggers for the proposed development was the partial relocation of the Loch Ness by Jacobite cruises from its original Inverness base at Tomnahurich Bridge to a temporary building at Dochgarroch Lock to mitigate the potential impact of the new west link road, new canal crossing and subsequent wider redevelopment at Torvean.
The application includes a design statement by Inverness architects Colin Armstrong.
“The Dochgarroch location has so far served Jacobite well in terms of access to Loch Ness and improved cruise timetables,” it states. “However, in the short time Loch Ness by Jacobite has been trading from this location, the surrounding infrastructure and services available at Dochgarroch have come increasingly under pressure.
“The company wishes to ensure it can manage the current growth by investing in new infrastructure, improving the service to visitors while minimising the impact on the village.”
The planned redevelopment includes the provision of visitor information, a cafe, shop and toilets immediately next to the cruise embarkation point.
“The proposal seeks to promote a sympathetic alteration and extension to the increasingly dilapidated and poorly-used Dochgarroch Hall,” the statement continues.
The project includes remedial work to the fabric and services of the existing building plus a contemporary extension with a fully-glazed wall linking the two buildings.
“It is hoped that the design will help create a focal point for the village, help become a tourist hub, create additional opportunities for local employment and so enhance and sustain future opportunities of both the shop, cafe and ticketing services,” the statement concludes.
In recent years, the hall has fallen into disrepair and no longer meets the regulations for public use.
Before submitting the planning application, managing director Freda Newton toured the UK’s best cafés, bakeries, tearooms and craft stores to develop her vision for a high-quality facility for visitors and locals.
She said the hall was a beautiful building in one of the best locations on the Caledonian Canal and hoped the investment would breathe new life into the building.