Castletown whisky distillery will be 'a real asset' to the local economy, says Caithness business chief Trudy Morris
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A plan to create a whisky distillery and visitor centre at an old mill on the outskirts of Castletown will be "a real asset" to the local economy, according to a Caithness business boss.
Trudy Morris, the chief executive of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, was speaking after Highland Council this week granted planning permission to Dunnet Bay Distillers for the project, which is estimated to cost around £4 million and is expected to create 12 jobs.
The company, which was formed by Martin and Claire Murray in 2014, produces the award-winning Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka brands at its Dunnet site. It already has approved plans to erect a temporary visitor centre with a café and retail space on land beside the 200-year-old mill at Castlehill.
Ms Morris said: "Martin and Claire have worked extremely hard over the past year and a half to secure planning permission for their ambitious new project and I am delighted for them that it has finally come through.
"Since Dunnet Bay Distillers first launched with a batch of just 9000 bottles in August 2014, the company has gone from strength to strength and has been a real success story for the north Highlands."
She added: "This is still a project in its early stages, but once it is up and running, it will be a real asset to the economy, creating jobs in the local area and attracting more visitors to the region.
"I’m sure there will be many hurdles still to overcome but based on Martin and Claire’s track record I am sure they will face any challenge and make a real success of this exciting and ambitious development."
Thurso and Northwest Caithness Highland councillor, Ron Gunn, who comes from Castletown, said: "This is fantastic news for the village and the wider area. The building has been derelict for a number of years so it is really, really good that it is going to be developed as a whisky distillery and visitor centre.
"It will create jobs and that is a good thing and will be a big attraction for tourists and people on the North Coast 500 route. It is also great to see the heritage of Castlehill being developed."
Billy Dunbar, who chairs the Castletown and District Community Council, is delighted the project has been granted planning permission.
He said: "We support the development as it will make use of the old rundown buildings and tidy up the surrounding area. It will bring in more visitors, creating jobs and income and help cruise ship traffic and the North Coast 500 visitors as well as the wider community."
Mr Dunbar added: "The village has seen a lot of the older buildings getting or in the process of being renovated and that is to be encouraged."
Dunnet Bay Distillers sells its products throughout Scotland, the rest of the UK and in 24 countries across the world.
The company has not said when work on the redevelopment will start but says the designs will be contemporary while respecting the fabric and style of the old building.