HELENSBURGH'S biggest visitor attraction has been granted an alcohol licence for its café area – but must apply for an occasional events licence when needed.

The Hill House was the subject of a hearing by the Argyll and Bute licensing board in a bid by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to obtain a provisional premises licence.

The NTS will be allowed to sell booze in the Hill House café until its closing time of 6pm, but permits for weddings and outdoor events to take place will need to be applied for on an 'ad hoc' basis.

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The decision was taken after a debate at the licensing board's hearing over the difference in size between a tepee and a marquee.

One of the events which it was hoped would be staged at the Hill House, which is currently undergoing major work as a protective 'box' is built around the outside, was a gin festival, on which Councillor Richard Trail asked for clarification.

He said: “I have seen these old cowboy movies, and tepees were not terribly big. Will this be a large structure? Is it only one of them?

“What about when people are drinking – will they be open to the elements on the day?”

Solicitor Jonathan Guy, representing the NTS, said: “In terms of the size of the tepee, it will be proposed to take up half of the lawn area.

“In terms of the cover being provided, there would be benches and other seating areas also in the tepee to ensure they were using the facility on the day.”

When Councillor Trail asserted that it would be a sizeable structure, Mr Guy added: “It is difficult to give information on the exact height.”

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Mr Guy had previously said: “The Hill House operates as a tourism attraction and the visitor centre will contain a ticket office and gift shop.

“There will also be a café on the first floor which will serve alcohol under the licence. The house will also have rooms available for hire and corporate hospitality. Alcohol can be purchased and a meal can be taken.

“It is not anticipated that the number of people attending these events would exceed 300.

“The premises is currently open for murder mystery nights where people can walk around the house. We also hope to offer private dining events for people to go around the house.”

Councillor Rory Colville also asked about the need for alcohol to be sold at the Hill House at all.

Mr Guy replied: “We are talking about evenings – private events. People want to have an event with wine or beer with their evening meal, which would enhance the experience.

“In terms of events on the lawn, it is a fact that some people like to have a drink. If it is a gin festival, then you are bringing people to an event which also shows off the building.

“I would submit that it is for the public to celebrate the building, but is done in a sensible time.”

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He also said that three people with personal licences would be based at the Hill House, and that while alcohol would be allowed on the second-floor roof terrace until 6pm, nobody would be allowed on the walkway, at the same height, with alcohol at any time.

Board chair Councillor David Kinniburgh said: “For indoors, we will grant the licence as applied for during the hours specified.

“For the outdoor area, taking the licensing officers’ recommendation, an occasional licence should be applied for.

“In that case you would be able to apply for a licence for hours that would accommodate an event, rather than being stuck with the same hours.

“The roof terrace would come into what we are proposing, closing at 6pm. It would allow you to have your events, murder mysteries, until midnight or 1am.”