IN PICTURES: A look inside the Free Church building at Shepherd’s Way in Portree

Members of the congregation at the new church Pic Willie Urquhart

Over 20 years since the idea was first hatched, and following a fundraising effort that has brought in close to £2 million, the new Free Church of Scotland building in Portree will be officially opened this Saturday (3rd February).

The Shepherd’s Way Church is a new permanent home for the Portree and Bracadale Congregation, with the building also set to function as a multi-purpose space for community use.

Local minister Donnie G MacDonald inside the new church Pic Willie Urquhart

In recent years Free Church services have been held in the gym hall of Portree Primary School, but the congregation – which numbers about 150 each week – has outgrown that space.

12 years ago land at Shepherd’s Way was bought with the view to building a new church, and the project, built by local firm RK Joinery, was completed at the end of last year.

The first service was held at the beginning of December.

The project cost more than £2 million Pic Willie Urquhart

The congregation assembled funds of £1.7 million for the development, with the rest of the costs met by a £700,000 building loan from the national Free Church of Scotland, that will be paid back over the next 20 years.

Substantial increases in building costs through the pandemic meant that a shortfall of £300,000 rose to £900,000 by the end of 2021, casting doubt on the viability of the project.

The building is for church and community use Pic Willie Urquhart

Donations continued to come in, however, and there were efforts like Police Inspector Bruce Crawford’s 3:16 challenge, which kept up the fundraising drive.

Chair of the church building committee Dr Charles Crichton said the “magnificent building” was a tribute to the generosity of many people.

Cutting the first turf on the site in early 2022 Pic Willie Urquhart

He added: “We’ve had some high profile fundraising, but just as important has been the persistent low-level giving that’s been made over the past 20 years.”

The Rev Prof Bob Akroyd, Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland will lead worship at 2pm on Saturday 3rd February to which all are welcome.

Refreshments and fellowship will be enjoyed after the service with a creche facility also available.

The new building also includes a creche facility Pic Willie Urquhart