Water-powered mills were once common in Aberfeldy and all along the Tay.
Mills have been recorded on this site, the lower Urlar Burn, since the 1600s and possibly as far back as the 1400s. Now very few remain and none are working mills. The present building dates from 1825 but by the late 1970s the mill only operated part-time and in 1982 it was sold to Tom Rodger, a retired miller from Cupar Angus, who undertook an award-winning renovation and added a visitor centre. This closed in 2000.
When Jayne & Kevin Ramage first saw the mill it had been disused for three years. Rain was leaking in and rats scurried among abandoned grain sacks. It was certainly a large building but it was a rabbit warren of tiny rooms cluttered with industrial machinery.
However, despite all this, they fell in love with the building and ended up buying the 4,500 square foot grade-A listed mill that needed over £250,000 of refurbishment. Nine structural walls came down to open out space over three floors. New kitchen, toilets, windows, doors. When it came to electrics and plumbing, the whole lot needed re-doing from scratch. Problem enough in itself, but there were no wall cavities to hide cables and piping so the solution was to do everything in copper and make a feature of it. It looks fantastic but it didn't half cost!
Just five months after building work started, shelves were filled with books and over 300 people came along on 21 May 2005 to see Michael Palin officially opening The Watermill Bookshop, Cafe & Gallery.
In 2009, as well as opening Homer, a design-led homewares shop in the neighbouring barn, The Watermill won the award for UK Independent Bookshop of the Year, which topped a previous award for Scottish Bookshop of the Year.
In 2016 the shop was included in the New Yorker collection ‘Footnotes to the 75 Greatest Bookshops in the World’.
What a journey it has been and continues to be!