The Mingary Castle blog is written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Four Posters Installed

When I went down to the castle this morning the weather was grey, the day very still with occasional heavy showers. There were big changes visible to the approach to the castle, with the layout of the gardens at the front of the castle beginning to take shape and the base for the access road almost completed.

Unfortunately, the weather was warm enough for the midges' enjoyment and, as usual, Billy was their preferred target. He, along with Grimmy, are working their way around the stonework finishing off odd sections of pointing - Billy is seen in the moat, brushing the Roman mortar on the wall of the biomass boiler house.

The scaffolding is now down throughout the courtyard so the full impact of the harling can be appreciated. Despite the lack of sun, the courtyard is much lighter, and the buildings seem more imposing.

All the lead hoppers and downpipes are in place, another feature which is a statement both of pride in the work that has been completed on this building in 2015 and of the intention that it will last for many years to come.

Local joiner Ian Cargill has been on site this week. He's seen here working on the small kitchen in the east range, but he has also been fitting units in the utility room in the west range. As with the units in the main kitchen, these are of quality oak and will look very good indeed. Ian's contact details are iancargilljoinery@btinternet.com and 07810 015 409.

Jess Hobson is with Neil Hobson Plastering who are back working on the last areas that need plastering in all three ranges - he's seen here in the small store room in the east range.

While work continues on the oak panelling in the north range, two sandstone fireplaces have now been fitted, this one in the sitting room. On the left, ready to go in to it, is a multi-fuel stove.

A sign that the project is nearing completion is the arrival of some of the beds. Three four-posters are now in place, having been carried up into their rooms and assembled. This is the one in the master bedroom, while....

....the other two have gone into the bedrooms on the attic floor.

This picture shows the detail along the top of the bed.

As I left, another heavy shower was moving slowly across the Sound of Mull. This has been a dismal summer, far from ideal for a building project of such complexity and magnitude in such a very remote area. It'll be a few weeks yet before the job is finished, but there's no questioning the cheerful dedication of this workforce.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Courtyard Transformed

Over the last few weeks a transformation has been taking place within the castle. It's part of what is so exciting about the concept behind the refurbishment of this magnificent 13th century Scottish building - that the bare, formidable exterior which, other than the crenelated battlements and the protruding chimneys, is little changed from how it would have looked 700 years ago....

....gives way on the interior to an 18th century dwelling, a place of which a contemporary country laird would have been comfortable in and proud of. So the walls of the three buildings have been harled, and the effect as one walks into the courtyard is magical. The place is lighter, and there's a softness which contrasts with the bare rock interiors of the great curtain walls which rise above the buildings.

The scaffolding on the north range was beginning to come down today, yet it was still covered with workmen. The painters from Mark Galley Decorators Ltd were putting the finishing touches to the upper windows of the range, and have now almost completed the interior painting. They're away tomorrow with most of their job done, but will return shortly before the building is handed over to finish off.

Other than a final coat to go on the windows, the exterior of the west range is complete. As is intended, this building would grace an Edinburgh city street.

This is the north range seen from the battlements. One of the contractors back on site - they can just be seen at mid-left - is Mark Chandler, whose company has done most of the leadwork around the building and some of the slating, and has now returned....

....to instal the specially made lead hoppers and downpipes of the roof drainage.

Gary Bibby, whose company Gary Bibby Joinery is responsible for the beautiful oak paneling which is going in to the north range, was also on site, measuring up and checking on the panels which have been installed. It's a pleasure talking to him as he is so proud of the quality of the work: he assured me that this panelling will last for centuries.

Gary is seen looking at one of the light fittings which has just gone in, one of ninety being installed....

....by the electricians from R&B Electrical & Renewables. They range from these bullseye downlights in the kitchen to wall lights and chandeliers in the formal resumption rooms. Unfortunately, many of the latter have arrived without bulbs so, although they've cleaned out the bulbs in the local shop, most of the rooms remain in semi-darkness....

....but not the bathrooms, where one of the copper tubs is now in place.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

An Ants' Nest of Activity

The castle was an ants' nest of activity this morning, with several trades on site, all contractors we've seen before but, in amongst them, several new faces. This is J-J John-Jack Dagnell who, although he's English, lives in the Dordogne and has just completed his two-year initial builder's training and apprenticeship in France. His is a 'Compagnons' qualification, the French equivalent of 'City and Guilds', and he's here to get some experience on an older building.  J-J is working with builders Ashley Thompson.

To add to the international flavour, Sebastian Kozlowski comes from Poznan, Poland, and is working for the painters Mark Galley & Sons. He's one of five painters on site, and is working in the rooms in the west range, while....

....Andrew Green is one of several working in the north range.  He's seen here in the study, but they've also had the tricky job of painting between the beams in the rooms which have had their beautiful panelling installed.

The lads from R&B Electrical & Renewables are back starting on the second fix of the electrics. This is another new face, Craig Harrison, who is working in the attic rooms but they won't be able to do much in the panelled rooms until more of the floor skirtings arrive.

Joiner Martin Theaker's work on the shutters in the dining room - seen here being admired by Mark Rutherford-Thompson - is complete, and the finished result is superb. The oak shutters move beautifully, and disappear into the panelling on either side of the window reveal. The job isn't quite finished: as can be seen, an oak veneer has yet to be fitted to cover the plywood exposed when the shutters are closed.

Martin is now working his way round the other eight window reveals that are to have shutters fitted. It's slow, painstaking work, with the result that he has only completed the two in the dining room, though he's started on three more.

Martin Chandler is the other sub-contracted joiner on site. He was previously up here with his brother Mark's company which fitted some of the slate roofs and did most of the roof leadwork. Martin is working on the 'dentals' which go all round the cornice in the panelled rooms. Some of the ones he has fitted can be seen behind his head, each separated from the next by a length of oak cornicing. The distance between each dental has to be calculated so that there is a dental above each vertical 'leg' of the panelling, and every dental is a slightly different length so, as can be seen, they're delivered far too long and have to be cut to precise size.  Since there are some 200 dentals in each of the big rooms, this too is taking a great deal of time - but it's well worth it as the finished effect is breathtaking.

As different sections of oakwork are delivered from Gary Bibby Joinery, they're fitted. So this week the short lengths of staircase have arrived and are now in place. Once again, each tread has been carefully covered to prevent the oak being scratched.

Damien the stonemason has almost finished the walls which separate the car park and formal garden from the moat, so he's now working....

....with Richard down the steep bank to the west of the castle, building a retaining wall which runs from below the castle entrance gate to the corner of the car park. Once this lower one is completed, there's another, higher stone wall which will run back to the edge of the car park.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Grand Staircase Installed

The stone wall building machine was still at it when I arrived at the castle yesterday morning on another damp day - not that the weathers seems to affect the cheerfulness of those working there, nor does it slow the pace of work.

It was good to meet Paul Beamer, the boss of Proficient Plumbing of Whitby, the company responsible for the plumbing in the building. He was in the process of commissioning the underfloor heating, powered by the biomass boiler in the moat, and was pleased with how it was performing. He's also here to start the second fix on the rest of the plumbing. He has three kitchens, four bathrooms and all the radiators to do - he's seen here in the attic bathroom, which he's almost finished.

To get to the attic I had to climb the newly-installed grand staircase. When finished, it'll be a great feature of the building.  The three main sections arrived at the end of last week and had to be taken down the new road to the foreshore, lifted up along the viewing platform steps, through the watergate, through the front door of the north range, and then raised into place. Since each section weighs over a tonne - they're solid oak - the process required eight men working through the weekend and, within the building, temporary scaffolding and a block and tackle. Once in place, each tread was covered with boarding to protect it.

The oak panelling for the main rooms of the north range is steadily arriving. Martin Theaker has started the job of fitting the panels into the window reveals - one is seen beyond him in this picture, which shows him working on its sill. Each reveal is a different size, so its panelling has to be built individually. Martin is seen cutting two notches to enable the sill to fit. When asked whether he worried about making a mistake he answered calmly, "No," but admitted he had made one or two small ones, which he'd easily fixed. Personally, I would have been in a cold sweat doing this.

The joinery company which is building this beautiful panelling, Gary Bibby Joinery of Middlesbrough, has sent detailed instructions on how the reveal panels should be fitted, but almost every section needs some adjustment....

....all of which takes time. When Martin tried to fit the sill, it just wouldn't go in, even with Mark Rutherford Thompson's help, so a bit more, very delicate adjustment, was needed.

As I left it was raining again, but wallbuilder Damien was still at work. Here, he's building the low stone wall round the top of the biomass boiler house. There's another layer of concrete to go on it, then it will either be gravelled or have turf laid across it.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Websites and Logos

Having spent our (Chris and Holly) first month working for Mingary Castle swatting up on castle history, the project so far and planning how to enable Mingary to support its self going forward we finally have something to show for our efforts.........
This is the new logo for Mingary Castle. As you will see it contains the local white tailed eagle
 and 'In hope I byde' from the crest of the MacIains. We are looking forward to getting cracking now on ordering the Standard to be flown over the Castle.


Now live the new mingarycastle.com (mingarycastle.co.uk) website will become the direct booking website for the Castle, for now it is ready for interested people to sign up for a newsletter so they can keep up to date with opening dates, prices and what we have to offer.


When the renovation work is complete the Castle will open its doors as both an exclusive 5 bedroom fully catered venue for holidays, weddings and events plus an amazing B&B! Not only does this allow people to enjoy the stunning workmanship and furnishing that have gone into this project, but it forms an important phase of the Trusts funding that will help to pay for the restoration and up keep of the Castle.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Stone Walls

I love this view of the castle. It's a brute of a building, solid, uncompromising and simply beautiful - and the view is being enhanced by stonemason Damien, who is a stone wall building machine. He's just visible at bottom right....

....where he's completing the wall between the ornamental garden area, which includes the car park, and the moat. An idea of the scale of his wall-building....

....is provided in this picture, and he has some way to go as the tops of all the walls have to be brought level with the top of the car park wall. Just visible over the top of the high wall at the far end of the moat is the biomass boiler building, the roof of which will be covered with either gravel or grass so that it will disappear from view.

Damien works at such speed that it's difficult to keep him provided with materials - to the extant that Mark Rutherford Thompson, one of the partners in the building company, has to get his hands dirty collecting lumps of rock.

Billy is Damien's assistant. Readers with long memories will recall that the local midges love Billy - hence the strange head attire, which is a midge net ready in position should these fearsome beasts attack him. Billy is 59 today - happy birthday!

By comparison with the exterior, the facade of the 18th century north range - now covered in scaffolding preparatory to harling - seems delicate, almost effeminate. To the casual visitor, it might seem inappropriate, until...

....one steps inside and begins to appreciate to quality of materials and workmanship that have gone into this build.  This is the ground-floor dining room, with the oak floor down but the last of the panelling still to arrive.  It's a lovely room, warm and spacious.

At the heart of this build have been the workmen who have brought their many and varied skills - and have put up with all the privations of living in such a wild and remote location. 'H' has been here almost since the start but has landed himself a job back in his native Yorkshire, so is leaving this week.  He's seen in this picture putting the finishing touches to the wet room off one of the second floor bedrooms. The walls are tiled with Carrara marble delivered so, if you look closely, the patterns in adjacent sheets match across the join.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Hive of Activity

The week was ending on a sunny note when visited the castle, so I scrambled out onto one of the rocky promontories to the east of the site to take some pictures of the newly-revealed walls. As can be seen, not all the scaffolding is down, though....


....workmen were in the moat removing the last of it from the north curtain wall.  At the same time, stonemason Damien was working on the north side of the moat, where there will be a car park and formal garden.  He's building a stone wall along the top edge of the moat. It'll be shoulder height, and will run right across so it also separates the garden from the flat roof area of the biomass boiler.

The place is a hive of activity, with John-Paul (left), one of the partners in the main contractor Ashley-Thompson, moving between jobs and helping where he's needed. Here he's seen with Martin Chandler marking off lengths of oak panelling ready to be cut to size to cover the beams in the ground-floor dining room.

On the floor above, Martin Theaker (right) is working with Martin Chandler's son Sam in the sitting room. At the moment they're laying the oak flooring, the job of panelling the beams being complete.

The panelling is stunning, beautifully made and fitted, with every section of oak matching perfectly so no joins can be seen. It has been a long job but the quality should ensure that the finished work lasts for centuries.

'H' is still working in the attic bathroom, but in the last week he's finished laying the stone floor, fitted the marble surround to the bath, built the marble shelves, and tiled all the walls in marble. The marble is Italian Carrara marble. When I was there he was just finishing off, ready for the plumber to come in next week, after which 'H' will fit the marble panel in front of the bath.

On my way out I checked out one of the other bathrooms in the north range, the one in the chapel, where J-P has just finished fitting the Caithness stone skirting. Again, this now awaits the plumber's second fix.

Next week should see another big leap forward, with a variety of trades appearing on site.