MYSTERY surrounds a fire which destroyed a £100,000 fishing lodge on a Peeblesshire estate, writes Kenny Paterson.
The blaze gutted the two-storey Scandinavian cabin on the banks of Portmore Loch near Eddleston during the early hours of May 6.
Fire crews from Peebles and Penicuik attended, but investigations have found no suspicious circumstances. However, there are fears that the blaze at the lodge, which contained two bedrooms, may have been started deliberately.
The fire was spotted at around 6.30am and Portmore gamekeeper Alex Hogg, who is also chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, was quickly on the scene.
He told TheSouthern: “I was watching out for foxes about a mile away from the lodge. When I came back off the hill the shepherd told me the lodge was on fire.
“Despite the efforts of the fire service, the lodge was destroyed, totally gone. It is just lucky no one was inside at that time of the morning.”
He added: “I think it was started deliberately.
“It could not have been an electrical fault, it is run from a generator and there was no power reaching the lodge.
“I think this is could be an example of rural crime, which seems to be happening more and more. We had a bike stolen from our farm two months ago.
“I think with less CCTV in rural areas, criminals are travelling to the countryside.
“It is a real mystery and it seems too strange for the fire just to have started without any reason.”
Portmore Estate owner David Reid described the loss of the facility, used as a clubhouse by members of a syndicate who fish for rainbow and brown trout and pike on the picturesque loch, as a “real shame”.
He told us: “We had a great club going and had built up around 100 members.
“It was an expensive building, but now we are back to square one.
“It is a real shame. The whole idea behind having fishing on the estate was to get people into the countryside so they could enjoy it.”
Mr Reid added: “It is curious for such an aggressive fire to start when no one had been in the lodge for 12 hours.
“The shepherd said he saw the lodge at 5.30am and there was no sign of trouble, but an hour later black smoke was filling the air.
“There was no can of petrol nearby and the police appear to have found no evidence, but it is still a curious case.”
Meanwhile, Portmore Syndicate manager Steve McGeachie, who has worked at the private fishery for 28 years, said the lodge was constructed six years ago and contained many club mementos.
Mr McGeachie said: “I am absolutely gutted. I put my heart and soul into the club.
“There were photographs, club records and artwork of the loch all inside. It is devastating.”
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said officers and firefighters had found no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident.