A COMMUNITY group that owns an Inner Hebridean island has been awarded more than £1 million to convert a Grade B listed estate house into a heritage centre.

North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) took ownership of Ulva last July and their plans to refurbish Ulva House have been given a boost with funding of £812,682 from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF), and £212,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Their project, Stòras Ulbha (the Ulva Resource), is part of a new £5m Scottish programme of projects in the Highlands and islands to provide more and better-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural and cultural heritage assets.

Scottish Natural heritage leads the NCHF, which is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

READ MORE: Isle of Lismore searches for new proprietors of island hub

The renovated building will house a heritage centre telling the story of Ulva’s people, as well as an annexe providing self-catering accommodation.

NWMCWC is now looking to appoint a project manager to start work on the refurbishment towards the end of 2020, with the new centre opening in the summer of 2021.

It will celebrate Ulva’s People – the impact they have had in history across the world, and the impact they will have in building a new community on the island.

The story of Ulva is a microcosm of the story of Scotland’s remote communities both in the impacts of clearance and depopulation and the drive today to sustainably repopulate and regenerate some of the country’s most beautiful and remote places.

Its new visitor, interpretation and education centre will include a fully integrated digital offering that will be accessible to new audiences who may never visit Ulva, and will enhance the experience of physical visitors.

Built in the 1950s, Ulva House is Grade B listed and a rare and significant example of a large mansion house of the early post-war building period in Scotland, which is largely unaltered.

READ MORE: Project seeks to save rare Scottish plants from extinction

An important 20th-century Scottish architect, Leslie Grahame-Thomson, designed the house with an unusual and distinctive regency style interior scheme.

The NCHF will encourage people to visit some of the more remote and rural areas and create and sustain jobs, businesses and services in local communities.

Its purpose is to promote and develop the outstanding natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands in a way that conserves and protects them.

The NWMCWC was established in 2006 to buy and manage the Langamull and West Ardhu forests in the north west of Mull, which were bought through the National Forest Land Scheme from Forestry Commission Scotland.

Since then, the company has built a haul route to get timber from the woodland to market, set up nine forest crofts, created a forest school and access to the archaeological site at Kildavie.

READ MORE: Images sought for Hebridean Dark Skies arts and astronomy festival

It has also installed a micro-hydro scheme which it developed at West Ardhu.

When the island of Ulva came on to the market in 2017, NWMCWC submitted a successful Community Right to Buy registration to secure the estate’s future in community ownership.

Colin Morrison, chair of NWMCWC, said: “We are thrilled to have received these awards which will see the restoration and repurposing of a key island building, bring it into community use for the first time and showcase Ulva’s extensive natural and cultural heritage.

“Finding a sustainable use for Ulva House, alongside the refurbishment of the residential properties on Ulva, are key aspects of the overall regeneration strategy for the island which secured the original community buyout funding.”