The Ballater community has rallied together to support local businesses affected by the fire which ripped through the old station in the early hours of this morning (May 12).
The fire began at 1.56am on Tuesday, May 12, and was brought under control by fire crews by around 5.20am. The historic building, which was used by the Royal Family on their visits to Balmoral Estate, was badly damaged by the blaze.
The congregation of St Kentigern’s Church, Ballater, took to Facebook to express their sympathies: “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the devastating fire at the Old Station in Ballater today. Please remember Lucy, Amy, Nigel and Fiona, and the Tourist Information staff. Thankfully no-one was harmed, but a focal point of Ballater has been destroyed. Please keep the local community in your prayers as we try to support those involved.”
Nigel and Fiona Franks, who owned the Station Restaurant, are also the owners of the Darroch learg Hotel, which was damaged by a fire in February this year.
The old station building is owned by Aberdeenshire Council and leased to VisitScotland.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: ““The Old Royal Station is a council-owned building which has been leased to VisitScotland for a number of years. Council officers are working with our colleagues in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to assess the extent of the damage and secure the building. Station Square will remain closed until further notice.
“The council understands the importance of the building both historically and in terms of the local economy and will be supporting VisitScotland in ensuring the Visitor Information Centre and undamaged displays can relocate to a suitable venue nearby.”
A VisitScotland spokesman told the Piper & Herald that they had been “overwhelmed” by offers of help from the local community.
He said: “We are currently assessing the damage to the Ballater VisitScotland Information Centre and will review our service once the picture is clearer. It is terrible that this beautiful old building has been destroyed but we are thankful that no one has been hurt. A number of other businesses who sub-let premises on the site were also affected and we are currently in touch with them to offer our support.
“We have been overwhelmed by offers of help from the local community and are in discussions with Aberdeenshire Council and the other partners to seek temporary alternative premises and continue to provide visitor information provision.”
We have been overwhelmed with offers of help from the local community.Spokesman, VisitScotland
At this time, email enquiries and the normal Ballater phone number have been diverted to the Braemar VisitScotland Information Centre. Once a temporary site for the visitor centre is in place, communications will be redirected to VisitScotland staff at this location.
Posting on Facebook earlier today, Amy Muir, who ran her business, Amy Muir Photography, from the old station, said: “I’m absolutely devastated, not just for my business but for the beautiful Victorian railway building and history the village has lost today.
My heart goes out to Nigel and Fiona (whose beautiful old hotel that was fire damaged only 3 months ago), to Lucy & the Tourist Info staff.
“I really want to give a huge thank you to the Ballater and surrounding Fire Brigades, they really tried their best to salvage my things but it was too late for the majority of my shop.
“It’s sad to think May 1 2014 was my opening night and now my lovely shop and its contents are lying under its rubbled roof.
“The support from the community has been amazing as usual.”
Photographs by Paul Anderson.