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Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Cuillins sale title inquiry
The range is a huge tourist attraction
The Crown Estate Commissioners have announced they are to investigate who owns the Cuillins mountain range on the Isle of Skye.

The mountains have been put up for sale for 10m by John McLeod, clan chief of the Clan MacLeod.

He says he needs the money to pay for the restoration of his ancestral home Dunvegan Castle.

The sale has been criticised by environmental groups and Skye residents, who say Mr MacLeod is holding the Scottish people to ransom.

Questions have also been raised over Mr McLeod's right to sell the mountains.

John MacLeod
John MacLeod: 10m price tag
The commissioners say that although the present evidence does not suggest a strong basis for Crown Estate ownership of the mountains, the issue of who owns the Cuillins needs further investigation

Mr MacLeod insists a 16th century charter gives him the right to claim the mountains - but during a public meeting in Portree last month, that right was challenged repeatedly.

Earlier this month a plan to buy the mountains was put forward by the John Muir Trust.

The trust's plan involves the clan MacLeod being given a grant to restore Dunvegan Castle, allowing Mr MacLeod to reduce the sale price of the Cuillins from the present 10m.

Foreign interest

Trust director Nigel Hawkins said most people felt a realistic way forward would be for Mr MacLeod to apply for a grant from Historic Scotland or the Lottery Fund for the 6m he needs to repair Dunvegan Castle.

The trust believes that a price of between 2m and 2.5m would be a more realistic price tag, although selling agents are reported to have had interest from two unnamed foreign buyers.

Mr MacLeod has said he will not settle for a penny less than 10m, which he believes is needed for restoration work and to develop tourism in the area.

The sale includes more than 14 miles of coastline, two salmon rivers, a licensed campsite, a sheep farm, farmhouse, cottages and traditional farm buildings.

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