Legal fight over the Cuillins is ruled out

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The Independent Online

A legal challenge will not be launched over the ownership of one of Scotland's best-known mountain ranges, the Crown Estate announced yesterday.

A legal challenge will not be launched over the ownership of one of Scotland's best-known mountain ranges, the Crown Estate announced yesterday.

The decision follows an investigation by the Crown Estate into the title of the Cuillin mountain range on the Isle of Skye, which was put on the market in March by clan chief John MacLeod of MacLeod with offers invited of at least £10m.

Mr MacLeod claims to own the mountains on the basis of a document dating back to 1611, which gave him ownership of the parish. But an investigation was launched in May because of concern that the document was fairly vague, which raised the possibility that the Crown, as the feudal superior, may still have rights over part of the land.

In a written opinion the senior counsel who examined the issue, James Drummond Young QC, said: "In my opinion the Crown Estate could not properly challenge Mr MacLeod's claim of ownership of the Cuillins with the intent of securing an order that the Cuillin Mountains are the property of the Crown."

The Crown Estate, the autonomous organisation that looks after crown properties, said as a result it would not be challenging Mr MacLeod's claim of ownership either formally or informally.

It said examination of public documents and private papers from the MacLeod estate had demonstrated a recorded title from as recently as 1966, and that this could be traced back through documents which, with the evidence of possession, were sufficient to displace any rights the Crown may have claimed.

Mr MacLeod is selling to raise money for essential repairs to nearby Dunvegan Castle, which he has built into a tourist attraction since inheriting it in 1965, and to fund aseries of conservation and tourism projects on the island.

He has previously described the decision to sell as the most difficult one of his life, but stressed all the money raised would be reinvested in Skye.

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