Things look black for Tobermory

THEY form one of the most recognisable towns in Britain, resembling Mr Kipling French Fancies built in brick and stone, but the candy-coloured front of Tobermory, on Mull, has been cast into shadow by the decision of a local hotelier to paint his property black.

The town's distinctive frontage has long been a popular tourist attraction and was the location for the celebrated BBC children's programme, Balamory, with its host of characters such as Josie Jump and PC Plum.

Each summer, hundreds of children drag their parents to the town and, in future, will face disappointment.

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The Mishnish Hotel first led the way to a brighter future for Tobermory when its owner, Bobby MacLeod, decided 45 years ago to paint the property bright pink and later yellow, prompting others to follow and decorate the neighbouring buildings in bold blues and reds.

But Mr MacLeod's son, Robert MacLeod, has decided to paint the hotel black, on the grounds that the bright yellow required an annual top-up coat and still went flat as a result of the salt spray.

He has already begun the process of transforming the hotel from canary yellow to mortuary black.

The revelation that the central building in the town's candy-coloured strip is going black brought disappointment to local residents and hoteliers. Vivian Thompson, who owns the Western Isles Hotel, which doubled as the pink castle in Balamory, said: "Black is a very depressing colour, it's too sombre and it goes against the image we are trying to project. It's certainly a surprise to learn that he's changing the colour."

And Olive Brown, who runs Brown's, the local ironmonger's shop, believes the colour switch could jeopardise the town's tourist reputation.

She said: "We are mystified beyond measure. We have these iconic red, yellow and blue buildings and now the bit in the middle is being painted black. It's such an iconic scene of Tobermory, but now every picture of the town will be wrong. I think it is bonkers and a shame."

Mr MacLeod said: "Every year I have it painted yellow, but it goes flat with salt and the sunlight. It needs a coat of paint, so I am painting it black.

"It will be more practical and I think it will look stunning - like a blackboard. The flower baskets will stand out and be seen, along with all the brasswork."

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A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Council said they were powerless to step in to preserve the town's colourful faade.

He explained: "It is a matter of choice. There is no planning permission needed at all. It was painted pink 45 years ago, so it was up to the owner then as well."

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