Tiny Scottish village of Kenmore being 'strangled' by US developers

The historic Scottish village being turned into an exclusive £300m playground for the mega-rich by US developers: Locals wage war against firm turning community into a luxury gated resort and its historic castle into members-only £4,500-a-night retreat

  • Kenmore in Perthshire is known for its wildlife, woodland and Taymouth Castle
  • But locals are furious at plans by US firm to build 320-hectare gated community

A picturesque Scottish village with a 19th century castle is being ‘strangled’ by US developers who have bought up most of the area, campaigners have claimed.

Kenmore in Perthshire is known for its wildlife, woodland estate and Taymouth Castle, which was a filming location for the 1997 Judi Dench film Mrs Brown.

But locals are furious over plans by Discovery Land Company to build a 320-hectare gated community on the Taymouth estate and neighbouring Glenlyon estate.

They fear billionaires are trying to create a ‘playground’ for the super-rich with 208 luxury homes in Kenmore, which has seen its local hotel and post office close.

Now, an online group called ‘Protect Loch Tay’ has been launched with the aim of halting the development and protecting the area’s wildlife and natural beauty.

The Scottish village of Kenmore in Perthshire is known for its wildlife and woodland estate 

Taymouth Castle, built in 1806, is now undergoing a major £300million restoration project

Taymouth Castle was bought in 2018 by Discovery Land Company and John Paul DeJoria, a hair care magnate who is married to former Playboy model Eloise Broady (pictured together)

Locals in the village, which only has about 100 residents, are particularly worried about the impact on the local populations of beavers, otters, birds and rare fish.

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They also say the Taymouth estate, which was once freely open for walkers, is now cordoned off with ‘path closed’ signs and security warnings – with the castle, built in 1806, covered in scaffolding amid a major £300million restoration project.

The castle was visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their honeymoon in 1842 and said to have sparked the monarch’s love of Scotland, so much so that she then went and bought Balmoral in Aberdeenshire.

Cher and Madonna were both said to have looked at purchasing the castle in the 1990s. But it was eventually bought in 2018 by Discovery Land Company and John Paul DeJoria, a hair care magnate worth £2.4billion who co-founded Paul Mitchell hair products and is married to Eloise Broady, a former Playboy model.

But taxi firm owner Rob Jamieson, who founded Protect Loch Tay, told the Observer: ‘They’re taking away ground that’s been an amenity for people for years and making it exclusive in the name of profit.

‘This isn’t a hotel where you can take your wife out for a meal, or a golf course where you can go along and play. It’s all for their very rich members and not the community that’s already here.’

Mr Jamieson has claimed there are plans to turn Taymouth Castle into an exclusive, members-only hotel with suites starting at £4,500 per night. 

Kenmore in Perthshire, which is located next to Loch Tay, is pictured in its autumnal colours

A man and his Great Dane at the opening of the salmon fishing season in Kenmore in 2020

The castle has served as a boarding school for the children of American servicemen, a wartime hospital and a drama school – but it has been uninhabited since the early 1980s and become in major need of restoration work.

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But Mr Jamieson, whose group has more than 2,000 members on Facebook, added: ‘I’m not an expert – I’m just a local person who doesn’t want to see the place spoiled. 

‘They say they want to build a ‘community’ here, but we already have a community. These plans only exist to squeeze profit out of it.’

The group has also launched a petition for the Scottish Government to block further work, and this has already attracted more than 15,000 signatures since it was launched 11 days ago.

The petition states: ‘The developers are a group of American billionaires who specialise in exclusive gated ‘worlds’ for the super-rich. This is not what Scotland is about.

‘We don’t need an influx of American millionaires and their speed boats, watersports and helicopter taxis, destroying our peaceful loch which is enjoyed by not only local residents, but tens of thousands of visitors every year – by way of fishing, walking, canoeing, nature watching, sailing etc. 

‘All peaceful pursuits natural to our tranquil and beautiful Loch Tay.’ 

Discovery Land Company is real estate development company based in Arizona which describes itself as specialising in ‘luxury residential family homes built in private club communities’ in the US.

Taymouth Castle in Kenmore was a filming location in the 1997 Judi Dench film Mrs Brown

The development in Kenmore is the firm’s first offering in Britain, and it has described it as a ‘a community including 208 residential units and club suites’.

It will also have a clubhouse, sports centre and wellness facility. The firm added that the site is only ’30 minutes by helicopter’ to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

But campaigner Ingrid Sheilds told Sky News: ‘People have questions about what the future plans are.

‘They own the Kenmore hotel; they own practically all these cottages here. A lot of the times when you come here it is literally like a ghost town. There is no one here.

The fabulous interiors of Taymouth Castle in Kenmore, which is now undergoing renovation

‘Restaurants are closed down and even the public toilets. Kenmore, as the village as it once was, has really been transformed.’

The area’s two senior Scottish National Party politicians – Pete Wishart MP and John Swinney MSP – are holding a meeting tomorrow to hear concerns from residents.

The next discussion about the development had been scheduled for the end of next month, when the Kenmore and District Community Council will hold its regular meeting.

However, Mr Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said the level of unrest in the area had prompted him and Mr Swinney to step in.

Kenmore Parish Church in Perthshire is seen surrounded by autumnal trees in October 2020

‘We know there is a lot of concern about the proposed development and this will be an opportunity to hear the voices of the community,’ he told The Courier.

A Discovery Land Company spokesman told the Observer the company is ‘committed to restoring the estate and securing a sustainable future for the local area in partnership with the community and with respect for the local environment.’

They added: ‘The community is being kept updated on progress via the Kenmore and District community council and the project website.’

The firm also told Sky News that it was following all regulations, including Scottish laws giving the public the right to roam on paths around the castle.

The village of Kenmore on the banks of Loch Tay in the Perthshire is seen in December 2015 

A statement from Kenmore and District Community Council says: ‘The council is entirely independent and has not taken a position either way on the overall development.

‘The decision to approve the development was taken by the planning authority many years ago and is no longer for discussion.

‘We do believe that both positives and negatives will result for the district and we want to ensure that there are more of the former than the latter.’

MailOnline has contacted both the Discovery Land Company and the council for comment.

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