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Controversial plans for iconic Glen Coe cottage

Wednesday 19th January 2022, 10:17am

Mountaineering Scotland has objected to a proposal to demolish and rebuild the roadside cottage at Allt na Reigh, Glen Coe, former home of mountaineering legend Hamish MacInnes.

The cottage is situated prominently on a bend of the and features in one of the iconic views of Scotland, the view of the Three Sisters of Glencoe from the A82 heading west. The cottage, which was for a time owned by disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile, has suffered from vandalism in recent years.

Plans are lodged with The Highland Council to demolish the currently unoccupied and boarded up cottage and to rebuild as a new, contemporary-designed dwelling, based on traditional building forms, to provide secluded living space from the busy A82. 

Near to the cottage is the workshop where Hamish MacInnes perfected the first all-metal ice axe, the MacInnes Massey, and later the Terrordactyl, and the MacInnes stretcher, the lightweight folding alloy stretcher used in mountain rescue. This outbuilding is slated for conversion into an accommodation unit.

Having looked at the artists impressions of the new design that were submitted with the planning application, Mountaineering Scotland has concerns with what is proposed.

The concept of rebuilding a cottage at this location is fine, as there has been a cottage here for many years.  What we are questioning is the design which seems to elevate the building above the roadside, making it appear to be standing proud in the landscape. 

This has the effect of drawing the eye to the structure itself and away from the scenic landscape, seeming to impose the building on the landscape, rather than within the landscape as the plans suggest. 

In addition, the planning application fails to consider how the renovated dwelling and outbuilding would look from the popular hill paths and crags lying south of the A82, especially the descent into the Glen from Coire Gabhail, and Buachaille Etive Beag.

This is in a National Scenic Area, a designation that acknowledges that the landscape here is up there with the best that Scotland has to offer.

There was a community consultation about these plans, in September 2021, which Mountaineering Scotland’s CEO, Stuart Younie, attended.  The conclusion of this community discussion was that there was no problem with renovation of a cottage on the existing development footprint or the principle of demolishing the existing cottage to enable it to be replaced with a new build.

However, since a detailed planning application has been lodged the community council and a number of local residents have lodged objections.

There was also an intention to restore the outbuilding of historical importance, with an “emphasis on reinforcing the positive effect Hamish MacInnes had on the land with the outbuilding being a symbol of this.” It is disappointing that the architect’s plans for converting the outbuilding into habitable accommodation look little like the existing outbuilding, making it difficult to see how the claim of reinforcing the heritage of Hamish MacInnes is substantiated.

The matter now lies with The Highland Council’s planning department and we urge The Highland Council to refuse planning permission on grounds that the siting and design of this particular development at this specific location is inappropriate and would detract from the quality and character of the landscape in Glen Coe.

The planning application, reference number 21/05434/FUL, can be viewed here.

Mountaineering Scotland's objection.


The existing cottage at Allt na Reigh