Portsoy’s maritime past preserved with major refurbishment of historic Salmon Bothy
January 12, 2021
Portsoy struck gold with National Lottery funding to restore the Salmon Bothy Museum and Community Space
The National Lottery threw a financial lifeline that enabled £17,600 of essential improvements to go ahead at Portsoy’s iconic Salmon Bothy ahead of stormy winter weather hitting the Banffshire coastline.
Covid 19 had such a severe financial impact on Portsoy Community Enterprise’s income stream that plans to fund the vital preservation project to one of the town’s most distinctive maritime buildings were cast adrift.
But its directors hit gold in making an emergency bid for cash funding.
The National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund stepped in to finance external masonry preservation works to ensure the prominent seafront building could be protected from the ravages of the elements, safeguarding its future as a popular local heritage centre and meeting place.
Scaffolding covered the four-storey building for several weeks while the programme of works including traditional limewashing and painting was carried out.
Portsoy Community Enterprise chairman David Urquhart explained: “Covid-19 came as a major blow to all our revenue generators and so funds earmarked for exterior maintenance works at The Salmon Bothy simply weren’t there.
“We were determined not to let our rolling programme slip however, as these works would not only preserve the building but would raise morale among our dedicated volunteers who run the facilities and take enormous pride in The Salmon Bothy.
“We are indebted to the National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund for assisting us with a grant to support us in caring for this listed building in keeping with its heritage, to ensure the building remains in excellent order.
“The Salmon Bothy is a landmark on our coast and one which Portsoy Community Enterprise breathed new life into, transforming it from an empty shell to a popular and well-used facility, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The Bothy has become a huge asset for the local community and one that is used to authentically recreate the story of our rich maritime past.”
Built in 1834 by the Seafield Estate which then owned the salmon fishing rights along the coast, the salmon house provided office, a bothy, an icehouse, a fish preparation area, workshop, and storage accommodation.
Stake-net salmon fishing began near to the mouth of the Burn of the Boyne as early as 1828. Bag-net fishing was also carried out. Abundant supplies of ice were obtained originally from Loch Soy and the Millpond and brought in by horse and cart.
The Salmon House continued in use until 1990, when salmon netting stopped at the Portsoy Station.
The building lay empty until Portsoy Community Enterprise launched an ambitious project that save it for public benefit, repurposing it for community and heritage tourism use. More than £400,000 was raised for its restoration and it was opened to the public in 2008.
In a normal year, the ground floor museum and genealogy centre attract around 3,000 visitors, and tells the story of Portsoy’s harbours, industry, and trade. It is rated a four star historic attraction by Museums Galleries Scotland
Upstairs at the Bothy is an attractive multi-use community space that hosts group meetings, corporate events, film nights, various craft and cultural festivals and weddings.
Run entirely by volunteers, the Salmon Bothy receives no public funding towards operational costs, all costs are met through donations and venue hire charges which are kept minimal.
Caroline Clark, Scotland Director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “As the enormous impact of the coronavirus pandemic became apparent, we had to act quickly to support the heritage sector and do our best to help organisations navigate through this incredibly challenging time. Our Heritage Emergency Fund has allowed us to get funding out to over 100 diverse organisations including the Salmon Bothy. We cannot save everyone and we know challenges still lie ahead, but we are grateful that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to help so many and wish the Salmon Bothy well in their road to recovery.”
Covid-19 had a significant impact on The Portsoy Links Caravan Park and The Sail Loft self-catering accommodation – part of PCE’s portfolio of assets – which were unable to trade at the height of the summer tourist season. In addition, its two-day Scottish Traditional Boat Festival was cancelled; its Boat Shed training centre remained closed, and the Bothy museum was unable to open its doors for the season.
Despite the setbacks experienced in 2020, the board is determined to bounce back. Directors remain committed to offering the local community and visitors to Portsoy opportunities to take part in and experience real authentic cultural experiences and are continuing to work collaboratively towards providing economic benefit from tourism for the town of Portsoy and surrounding area.
More information about PCE and its community-owned divisions can be found elsewhere on this website