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Breacachadh Castle & The Project Trust

The castle was probably built by Lachlan Maclean, a nephew of Donald Lord of the Isles, when his uncle granted him most of the Isle of Coll, Quinish in Mull and Drimnin in Morvern. It was at about this time  (i.e. in 1403) that Lachlan obtained a mandate from the pope to marry his cousin the daughter of Macleod of Dunvegan. It is the first occasion when a Maclean of Coll appears on record. (Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, ‘The Building of Breacachadh and the Maclean Pedigree’, WHN&Q, 1st Series. No. XIII, 3-11).

After a turbulent history the castle stood abandoned for 200 years until it was purchased in 1961 by Nicholas Maclean-Bristol [NMB] who descends from the senior cadet branch of the family of Coll. It has since then been restored by NMB and his wife into a dramatic comfortable residence, which houses the relics of the Macleans of Coll.

Breacachadh Castle was the original headquarters in Coll of the Project Trust, the first Gap Year organization, which NMB founded in 1967 and ran with his wife until 2008. He is now Life President.

Project , which originally aimed to educate a new generation in the United Kingdom through service in partnership with people overseas particularly in developing countries, now recruits its volunteers from the whole European Union. It has sent a total of 6621 eighteen year-olds to 63 countries outwith Europe and North America.

Since 1969 all potential volunteers have attended a week’s selection course on the Isle of Coll. Travel to the island not only simulates the journey that candidates will make when they go overseas but enables them to study a very different community to their own. It was from the start considered impertinent to study the present community of Coll but rather to study it in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century when the island was a developing country where development failed.

At the end of their week on Coll all candidates give a presentation on what they have discovered. This presentation acts as a model for the community report they will complete when they are overseas.

Research by Project’s staff assisted by other scholars, professional historians and Gaelic experts has resulted in a number of conferences on the island and in the Society of West Highland & Island Historical Research’s publications.

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