Until the 18th century, evidence points to Rum's sparse population. A report on the Hebrides in c 1580 for King James VI noted only two townships on Rum. The island was described as 'an ile of small profit… the hills and waist glennis are commodious only for the hunting of deir'. Franciscan missionaries visiting in 1625 considered it 'so wild and mountainous as to make habitation difficult'. During the 18th century however, the population rose steeply, reaching a maximum of 443 in 1795 (Old Statistical Account, 1796).
The owner of Rum, Alexander Maclean, 14th of Coll, bought Muck in 1814 for £9,975 with the intention of exploiting its kelp in the production of soda ash for explosives. Due to the Napoleonic Wars, this trade was buoyant; however with the onset of peace in 1815, demand fell, the trade collapsed. Maclean, or his son Hugh, in an attempt to settle their financial difficulties, leased Rum as a sheep-walk to a kinsman, Dr Lachlan Maclean. As a single tenancy, the whole acreage of arable and grazing on Rum was needed to maximise the stocking rate. By 1828, Maclean had cleared all islanders from the land and transported them to Nova Scotia, save for one family left at Carn an Dobrhan, on the south shore of Loch Scresort. Maclean's clearances left him without manpower or shepherds, so islanders cleared from Mull and Skye were settled on Rum. By 1831, the population was 134.
Maclean built Kinloch House, known as Tigh Mor, and described as a 'plain, strongly-built stone house, with a steep roof, and with a porch, and with a small wing at each end… The rear and ends of the house are shaded by trees, and the lawns in front slope gently down to the shore of the bay. The south side of the lawn is flanked by the garden, and the north side partly by trees' (Waugh, 1883 quoted in Magnusson, 1997, p.21). Part of this sycamore plantation still survives to the north-east of Kinloch Castle, near the site of Kinloch House.
Following the collapse of the sheep enterprise and the 1836 famine, Maclean left Rum. Then in 1845, Hugh Maclean of Coll sold Rum to James Gascoyne-Cecil, 2nd Marquis of Salisbury (1791-1868) for £26,455. A High Tory, with a traditional outlook based on rank and privilege, he was nevertheless interested in innovation where his estates were concerned. He recorded his achievements as landlord, builder and agriculturalist, signing the end of each record 'All done by me!' (Cecil, 1973, pp.197-8). He embarked upon an extensive scheme to transform Rum into a typical Victorian estate. It was stocked by 5,000 sheep organised into nine hirsels around the island, each supervised by a shepherd. New cottages and a stone pier at Kinloch, were built. Roads were made to Kilmory and Harris. A quarry was opened and large tracts of land were drained in an attempt at reclamation. Salisbury restocked the island with deer (extinct on Rum by the late 18th century) and introduced other game. An ambitious scheme which failed, attempted to transform the Kinloch River into a first class salmon and sea trout river.
In 1850, Salisbury conveyed Rum to his eldest son, Viscount Cranborne (1821-65). When he died in 1865, the 3rd Marquis of Salisbury inherited it. In 1870, he sold it to Farquhar Campbell of Aros, who probably built Tigh Ban, or 'The White House' as a shooting lodge for visitor accommodation during the season. From 1879 the shooting was let, at £800 per annum, to John Bullough (1838-91), a wealthy Lancastrian industrialist. Bullough, educated at Queenwood College, Hampshire, an Owenite school, and at Glasgow University, had inherited his father's position in Howard's & Bullough. Under him, their Globe Works at Accrington became the most innovative and productive textile machine producers worldwide. Having purchased Meggernie Castle, Glen Lyon (q.v. Inventory, Volume 4, pp.205-8) in 1884, Bullough purchased Rum in 1888 for £35,000 from James Hunter Campbell, cousin of Farquhar Campbell. Bullough aimed to establish the whole island as a deer forest for sport and game. Thus he increased the sporting provision on Rum, improving the stock of red deer by importing new stock, introducing and breeding game birds, building new shooting lodges and establishing large-scale plantations around Loch Scresort, with 80,000 trees. He purchased the Mystery, a 43-ton, 55 ft sailing yacht used for journeying to his private island.
Bullough died in 1891, leaving Rum to his son George. His first building work on Rum was a mausoleum at Harris for his father. His major work was Kinloch Castle, designed by the London architects Leeming & Leeming. No expense was spared in the design, construction or furnishing of the modern Castle, which commenced in 1897. It is said that his instruction was that the new mansion should be as long as his yacht, the Rhouma (a phonetical version of a Gaelic pronounciation for Rum), which seems to have some foundation in fact (Davis, 2002).
Three hundred workmen from Eigg and Lancashire laboured to build the castle of pink Annan sandstone. The interior and furnishings were fitted out in a lavish Edwardian manner, mostly by James Shoolbred and Co. of London. It included the latest modern conveniences and comforts, including electricity (reportedly the second house in Scotland to have electricity), steam central heating, an internal telephone system and innovative plumbing systems.
Work on the gardens started in 1903 but the main phase of their construction was between 1905-12. By 1910-2 photographs show woodland, trees, lawns, hedges and herbaceous borders established, with the recently constructed Water Garden to the west of the Castle. A quarter of a million tons of best Ayrshire top soil was imported to improve the naturally marshy site and provide depth for the establishment of gardens, lawns, a bowling green and a nine-hole golf course, as well as avenues, roads and paths. A walled garden was built behind the Castle on the site of an earlier Walled Garden (1877, OS). On its north wall was a range of south-facing 14-sectioned hot houses for fruit manufactured by R. Halliday & Co. of Manchester. The north-facing side of the wall had a series of six domed houses (including a Palm House, Camellia House and fernery), a boiler house, a series of six potting sheds, mushroom sheds and workshops. A squad of twelve full-time gardeners was employed, with a head gardener who had worked at Alton Towers, Staffordshire. There is no indication of a garden or landscape designer for the landscape. The general layout was probably provided by Leeming & Leeming, and the gardens developed by the Head Gardener in consultation with Bullough himself. A series of Rum landscapes painted by Byron Cooper (1850-1933) were commissioned 1901-2, for display in the Castle.
Following Sir George Bullough's marriage, to Monica Charrington in 1903, there were further building works and many of the garden improvements, including the conservatory and Japanese garden may date to this period.
Kinloch Castle was used as a shooting lodge for two or three months of the year, its uses centred on fishing, stalking and lavish hospitality. Bullough purchased a luxurious twin-decked schooner-rigged 221 ft steam yacht, the Maria, renamed the Rhouma. This was supplemented by the Morn, which acted as a tender in Loch Scresort. By 1900 Rum's population numbered 100.
Following the First World War the family's visits to Rum gradually grew rarer and Kinloch Castle's gradual decline began. Of the 40 able-bodied men on Bullough's staff, only two returned to the island after the war. In 1916, Bullough received a baronetcy in reward for a £50,000 loan to the Government at no interest. Sir George Bullough died in 1939 and the estate passed into the hands of Trustees. By 1951, the population had decreased to 28. Finally, in 1957, the Bullough Trustees sold Rum (excluding the mausoleum) to the Nature Conservancy for £23,000. The island was designated a National Nature Reserve and has since been managed by government conservation agencies – the Nature Conservancy (1957-73), the Nature Conservancy Council (1973-91), the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland (1991-92) and thereafter Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).