A community-owned 19th century mill on Point, near Stornoway, which is a unique example of social history on the Isle of Lewis, has successfully been awarded funding for its restoration.
Built in 1893, the Garrabost Mill was in commercial operation, milling barley and oatmeal for local crofting communities until 1956 and was in the ownership of the Morrison family for more than a century. The Garrabost Mill Trust, a volunteer committee owns and will manage the significant plans for its restoration and reinvention as a historical visitor attraction.
Funding for the restoration comes from a recently approved grant of £95,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), matching £95,000 already pledged by local wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust (PST). The objectives of the Garrabost Mill Trust are to restore working order of the building as a demonstration mill, creating a social and cultural hub to reflect the crofting heritage of the area and provide a local visitor attraction. Only five miles from Stornoway, the Mill will offer an exciting insight into this unique building and its role within local crofting history to visitors and residents alike.
Garrabost Mill Trust Chairperson, Brian Chaplin commented, “The Mill is an important part of our local heritage. When we conducted our community survey many residents recounted tales of carrying home-grown barley there for processing into meal and are looking forward to seeing the Mill working again. Our first priority is to safeguard the fabric of the building and technical studies have shown that it is basically in good order with some needs for reroofing and woodworm treatment. Secondly, we are very keen to engage with the community and encourage people of all ages to join the committee and help us deliver what could be a defining heritage project for Garrabost and the surrounding area. We are as a committee are incredibly grateful to all our supporters and look to the future of the Mill with optimism”.
Natalie Campbell, Head of Enterprise Support in HIE’s Innse Gall area team, said: “This is a fantastic example of a community-led tourism project with an important crofting and cultural history. Restoration of the mill and outbuildings will transform it into a visitor attraction, which will help create jobs and safeguard a building with historic interest for future generations. We are really pleased to support this project, which will be run by a community where Gaelic is part of the everyday spoken word and we’re looking forward to seeing the project take shape.”
PST Community Consultant, Alasdair Nicholson wrote the Mill restoration feasibility study and has been integral in sourcing funding on behalf of the Garrabost Mill Trust. He commented of the news, “This is an exciting opportunity to create a new chapter in the history of the mill and be a focal point for the stories around the heritage of the area, including those unique to this part of the crofting community. Initially the HIE and PST funding will cover costs including roof repairs to the mill and replacement roofs on the outbuildings, cleaning of outbuilding walls, restoration of the water wheel, access and improvements to the amenity”.
The project to develop the Garrabost Mill fits with community-led and eco-cultural tourism development, is also another area of community-owned development, adding to a cluster of enterprises in the local area, including Ui Church, Aros An Rubha, and the Point and Sandwick Coastal Trail.
A Green Community survey of residents across the villages of the wider Point and Sandwick area indicated 70% support for creating the Mill as a local visitor attraction and it is hoped the development will create many opportunities for the area. All efforts will be made to ensure the Mill is an asset to the local community, including the placement of parking which will be mindful of residents.