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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Historic abbey sold at auction
Fort Augustus Abbey
The abbey made less than the 1m asking price
An historic abbey on the banks of Loch Ness has been sold at auction at Manchester Airport.

Fort Augustus Abbey was bought by a property tycoon from Manchester for 850,000, alongside lots which included a chip shop and a pub.

The 18th century building was sold by current owners Abbey Millennium (AML), which is headed by wildlife expert and TV presenter Terry Nutkins.

But the sale was not without controversy - a local community trust were seeking to buy the abbey but had their offer rejected by AML last month.

Former glory

AML claimed the Fort Augustus Abbey Preservation Trust (FAAPT) had insufficient funding.

However, the FAAPT had hoped to take over the grade A-listed building if a buyer had not been found.

Trust spokesman Mel Stewardson said: "If it is somebody who has bought the abbey unseen and this is a speculative bid then we may have a little bit of trouble.

"But we have to wait and see what is going to happen, what his view is, hopefully we should be able to co-operate and get the thing working properly."

Terry Nutkins
I'm sure it will be a very successful visitor attraction
Terry Nutkins

Mr Nutkins, who lives locally, set up AML in 2000, planning to restore the building to its former glory as a Benedictine monastery and create a tourist attraction including a maze.

However, two of his backers pulled out of the five-year development project and Mr Nutkins put the 260-year-old Abbey up for auction.

But he said he hoped he had now secured a future for the abbey.

"In three or four years you will see a very different abbey here and I'm sure it will be a very successful visitor attraction," he said.

"I'd like to believe I kicked that off when I bought it three years ago, because nobody else wanted to buy it."

Set in 22 acres of ground, it also has the site of the original Hanoverian fort that gave Fort Augustus its name.

For decades it was a religious centre and more recently an exclusive fee paying school.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Jackie O'Brien
"The abbey is one of the Highland's most impressive properties"




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