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‘Significant concern’ as controversial Taymouth tycoons buy Aberfeldy holiday resort

Discovery Land Company - the American firm redeveloping the Taymouth Castle estate at Kenmore - is behind the purchase of the Moness Resort.

Moness Resort in Aberfeldy.
Moness Resort in Aberfeldy.

The controversial US real estate tycoons behind the Taymouth Castle redevelopment at Kenmore have bought Moness Resort at Aberfeldy.

Discovery Land Company confirmed on Friday that it has acquired the popular resort.

Its latest Perthshire purchase consists of 106 self-catering cottages, a four-star hotel and leisure facilities.

The firm has been embroiled in a public dispute over the multimillion-pound restoration of the 200-year-old Taymouth Castle.

Taymouth Castle exterior
Discovery Land Company is also behind the redevelopment of Taymouth Castle, near Kenmore.

Bosses say they intend to work with Perth and Kinross Council to make vacant cottages at Moness available for long term rentals.

A statement issued by Discovery Land Company’s PR team on Friday afternoon, said: “An investment group affiliated with Taymouth Estate, PLH of the Highlands, has acquired Moness Resort, a popular hotel, restaurant and spa in the heart of Aberfeldy.

“The Moness Resort will remain open to the public, serving local residents and tourists, and will continue to be run by the current team.”

Aerial view of Moness resort, Aberfeldy
An aerial view of Discovery Land Company’s latest acquisition at Moness, Aberfeldy.

It went on: “To expand access to affordable and workforce housing in the community, the resort owners plan to work with Perth and Kinross Council to allow the 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom cottages on the property, when not being used for hospitality, to be used for longer term rentals at accessible rates.

“This will also allow the resort to maximise occupancy during peak periods.

“There are no plans to change how the hotel, restaurants, bar, or spa are used.”

Discovery Land Company Moness move follows Kenmore controversy

Moness was previously owned by J&S McKenzie Group, who acquired the Highland Perthshire holiday park in 2019.

Moness resort sign
Discovery Land Company’s latest purchase, Moness Resort, has been a popular destination in Aberfeldy for years.

Discovery Land Company is run by Mike Meldman, an entrepreneur and friend of George Clooney.

The company’s plans at Taymouth Castle have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months.

An online petition started by the Protect Loch Tay protest group has attracted more than 150,000 signatures.

The petition calls for “a complete halt to all further and future development.”

Hundreds of people attended a public meeting in Aberfeldy in July, where concerns about access and the impact on the local environment were raised.

Audience on balcony at public meeting in front of a banner which reads 'Aberfeldy Town Hall'.
Discovery Land Company’s Taymouth Castle plans were discussed at a meeting in Aberfeldy. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

However, many have also voiced support for the plans.

Kenmore Community Council has said most locals are in favour of Discovery Land Company’s actions at Taymouth Castle.

They have also hailed the firm’s intention to refurbish and reopen the Kenmore Hotel, village shop and other commercial buildings in the village which it now owns.

Protect Loch Tay demands answers now

Protect Loch Tay said it could not overstate its concern at the news that Discovery Land Company has purchased Moness resort.

In a statement, the group said: “This is exactly why it is so important that Discovery Land Company immediately provide a full plan of their intentions for the development.

Kenmore Hotel exterior
The Kenmore Hotel is closed while its new owner Discovery Land Company carries out refurbishments. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“How many other properties do they intend to buy up? What will happen to  Moness, home to one of the oldest buildings in Aberfeldy and a vital piece of tourist infrastructure for the town?

“How far do their ambitions span? What else aren’t we being told?

“We need answers now.”

‘Significant questions’ over Disccovery Land Company’s Moness purchase

Former Deputy First Minister John Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North, said he and Pete Wishart MP were pressing Discovery Land Company for another urgent meeting on the Moness purchase.

“The news that Discovery Land Company is acquiring Moness Resort is totally unexpected and will spark significant questions and undoubtedly concerns in the local community and beyond,” said Mr Swinney.

John Swinney addressing audience at Aberfeldy Town Hall
John Swinney chaired the Taymouth Castle meeting in Aberfeldy Town Hall. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“Discovery Land Company have confirmed to me that the hotel will continue to operate as at present and that there will be no job losses.

“Whilst this is welcome, the acquisition raises significant questions about the scale of land and business acquisition that DLC are undertaking in the Breadalbane area.”

He added: “It is absolutely vital that those questions are addressed openly and transparently by Discovery Land Company in dialogue with the local community.

“I therefore welcome the fact that DLC have now agreed to the request that Pete Wishart MP and I have made to them to engage in a public meeting at which DLC can fully explain their plans to the community.

Pete Wishart MP at Aberfeldy Town Hall meeting
Pete Wishart was also at the Aberfeldy meeting. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“The need for such a discussion is now ever more significant after the Moness Resort acquisition.

“I will work with Pete Wishart to put the arrangements for such a meeting in place with DLC at the earliest opportunity.”

Taymouth developers ‘committed to community’

Perth and Kinross Council confirmed it had held talks with Discovery Land Company about its proposal to make cottages at Moness available for rent.

Taymouth Castle sign on gates to the estate in Kenmore.
Will Discovery Land Company’s Moness purchase prove as controversial as its Taymouth Castle estate project? Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

A spokesperson said: “An initial discussion has been held with the developer’s planning consultant.

“A planning application for change of use relating to some of the properties at Moness Resort is anticipated and will be assessed in the normal manner.

“That includes the opportunity for the public to comment.”

David O’Donoghue, Taymouth Estate General Manager, said: “We are committed to the people of this community beyond the estate and will be hosting a meeting for local residents in the coming weeks.

“The community will welcome a thriving economy, affordable homes and quality career opportunities. And this transaction will advance these goals, while preserving a business with roots that go back more than 250 years.”