The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Stay at Mingary Castle


This is a guest post from David Howard, Mingary Castle's first guest.

We were absolutely delighted and honoured to be the very first guests at Mingary Castle.  I have been visiting Ardnamurchan since I was a boy and have made regular visits to the ruins over the years.

I followed John Haylet's fantastic Mingary Castle Restoration Blog closely and to see the wonderful metamorphosis close up was just fantastic. The extent and quality of the work was staggering. Thanks Chris for a most informative tour and talk.

Our stay was brilliant and we really enjoyed the well appointed rooms and comfortable furnishings.
I'm sure the Castle's original occupants would have had a very different experience.

Thanks Holly for the wonderful and exceptional cuisine. Our dinner was truly memorable.

Thanks Moira for looking after us so well.

All three of you contributed to one of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences we have ever had.

Thank You

David and Fiona



Saturday, 12 March 2016

Are we nearly there yet?!

So first I must start with an apology that this is the first blog in two weeks. It has been a very busy two weeks, launching our new website www.mingarycastle.com and making bookings LIVE! Plus starting the long but VERY enjoyable task of turning the inside from building site to luxury hotel. I thought I would share the progress so far......
The sitting room is coming together and will be a wonderful place to unwind with a good book or enjoy your canap├ęs before going downstairs to dinner.
The MacIain is the master bedroom in the North Range, it comes with its own dressing room and a sumptuous 4 poster bed.
Those who have been following the restoration blog will recognise the MacIain's bathroom with its splendid copper bath - it also has a shower for those not wishing to go for a swim.

The MacDougall is the smallest of the rooms but still has plenty of space to swing a cat. But you have to watch your head as you go through a wee door into the best bathroom in the castle (in my opinion).......

.....as the MacDougall bathroom is built in the inter-muriel passage way. It's two arrow slot windows look North over the garden and there is even a seat in the shower where supposedly there was an old alter was found, giving it its nickname 'The Chapel' bathroom.
Up on the top floor of the castle is the McCain Suite, named in thanks to Mr McCain who generously made a substantial donation to the Mingary Castle Restoration and Preservation Trust, we are looking forward to welcoming him and his family to stay in May. This room is know as McCain East .............
 ......which shares this wonderful bathroom with..........

McCain West. The additional perks with this Suite is the views out across to Mull and the joy of having the top battlements all to yourself. The West range is still being used for Sandra's sewing room but hopefully I will be able to share photos of that soon.

Also we will be starting to blog more frequently on www.mingarycastle.com/blog.html where will be focusing on the suppliers, local activities and events happening at the Castle - so I hope you will check that out from time to time too.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Mud, mud, glorious mud!!

So the garden has been slow and hard progress but looking back we can now see that we are getting there. Back in October the soil was placed in the garden and Chris started the task of levelling, stone picking and weeding this.
He even managed to get it looking pretty level and seeded before the weather turned in November.
And the seed actually grew (We used Mingary Mix from Watson seed - it only seemed right!) How ever once the grass started growing it soon became clear we had a problem.....
As you can just make out here there are still lots of LARGE stones that have worked there way up and the soil sunk in lots of unhelpful ways leaving us with a terrible lawn. So we started again and took the rotavator to the lot of it and created a monster.
It might not seem that bad but the stone in the middle is a big as a red house brick! So we set about hand rotavating it next...
We have been very lucky this week not only because it is dry!! but because we have had the help of two work-aways called Norma and Alex. They are all the way from Mexico which means they are still getting use to the lack of heat from the sun but have been amazing!
Once we hand rotavate we roll, then we rake one way, then we roll again in the other direction, crisscrossing the bed to try and create a level lawn. The next stage is to go across it again and pick out more stones and more weeds, making holes again in the lawn :-(

Then we raked it to try and level out the holes. Next comes the treddling trying to squeeze all the air out of the soil so that it won't sink once its seeded. This helped warm us all up today as the breeze was pretty nippy! Norma was pleased to be warm.

Then...........now you may have guessed it by now.......we raked and rolled it in both directions so it is ready for it FINAL rake tomorrow before putting seed down.
There is still a huge amount to do but when it is finished you will find me (Holly) sat with a G&T in hand admiring it and telling anyone that will listen about all the different processes of making a lawn!
PS anyone wanting to volunteer and be part of the castle garden process please email enquiries@mingarycastle.com I can promise coffee, biscuits and our eternal thanks!

Friday, 19 February 2016

The next step for Mingary

So things are changing at Mingary now that the inside is 99% there, we (Chris and Holly) have moved into our office and had the wonderful opportunity to show Jon around. We invited Jon and his wife Gill to come and visit the castle now that most of the furniture is in place, unbelievably this was the first time Gill had seen the castle since the restoration work had got underway! They were accompanied by fellow walker Paul after a stroll East of the castle. Jon is hoping to write up a short booklet about the walk and its interesting historic points.
We would like to say a massive THANK YOU to Jon for the amazing work he has done on the blog as it is now time for him to pass over the reins to us. We just hope we do him proud as his are big boots to fill.
The castle is now equipped with furniture that has been sourced from auction houses and other bits that have been reappointed from other parts of the estate. These two chairs are antiques that have been recovered in a lovely blue tartan.
These plates and cake stands are a particular favourite of Holly's and she can't wait for guest to relax in the lounge with afternoon tea and enjoy them too. Below is some of the hand thrown pottery to be used for breakfast.
With the inside coming along, as with all building projects, the outside is in need of some tidying up. We have started the long job of hand picking all the stones out of the lawn and reseeding it. It may be painstaking but it really is making a difference and we will be telling all the guests about our beautiful lawn. We have been keeping our eyes peeled for treasures but the only thing found so far is on of Sophie's the site dogs bones.
The perks to the being outside is you get to witness some of the best sunsets we have ever seen; our guests are going to be spoilt. This one looks like we are on a Greek island. (although the 5 layers we were wearing might have said different)
And here someone is holding a torch up from behind Ormsaigbeg........its a pretty good life!


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mingary in the Sunshine

With the weather taking a turn for the better, we were out walking along the beach to the east of Mingary on Monday enjoying the views across the bay to the castle. The low, rocky point which sticks out into the Sound of Mull to the immediate left of the castle is Rubh' a' Mhile, off which a ship was sunk during the siege of Mingary in 1645.

The castle's repointed walls now catch the sunlight so the building stands out against the darker hills.

In this picture, the distant houses of Ormsaigbeg, one of West Ardnamurchan's crofting townships, can be seen in the distance.

The castle is seen here from the Ardnamurchan Estate's lands to the east of Mingary, with the hills of Maol Buidhe and Druim na Gearr Leacainn in the distance.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Almost There....

On any normal building job, the conditions over the last week might have been terminal. Two major storms, Gertrude and Henry, have passed through. We've had winds gusting to 131mph a mile or so from Mingary; we've been pelted by rain, hail, sleet and snow; and then, yesterday, the sun smiled briefly, apologised, and disappeared again - so we're now back to rain.

Despite the extreme conditions, the damage on site has been minimal, with one exterior door torn from its hinges and the eagle blown off his plinth in the ornamental garden.  On the other hand, the workmen have suffered indirectly, with one of the main mobile (cellphone) systems down for over a week, no internet, and their caravans battered for hours almost every night by the wind. 

But progress has been such that, despite the storms, Holly and Chris Bull, the castle's managers, will be starting to move furniture into the three ranges early next week, after the builders have spent the weekend on the final small jobs and tidying up. Some major things will be completed later, like the sea wall, the drawbridge, and the lift in the dungeon/cellar, but the impression one gets as one walks around....

....is that the rooms in the main, north range are almost ready for occupation. In fact they aren't, with the first letting scheduled for mid-May, because there is still a huge amount to be done.

About half Sandra Jeffrey's curtains have been measured and hung, but all except those in the west range, in which the builders have finished work, have been taken down again and re-wrapped in polythene because there's still too much dust around. Picture shows Sandra working with joiner Martin Theaker. The painters and electricians are still on site, and there are one or two joinery jobs to be finished.

The period furniture, which has been in store on the Estate, will be coming in on Monday or Tuesday. This is the main lounge, which is complete. Coming in to it today from the cold and rain, it felt as warm as toast  - as much from the biomass central heating as from the feeling of warmth given by the magnificent oak panelling.

This is one room which is really is finished. It's the bathroom for the second bedroom in the north range, built inside the great curtain wall.

Various jobs have been finished off outside as well. For example the iron safety bars have been fitted in the crenellations along the battlements, the work done with all the neatness that has been characteristic of this build.

This neatness and attention to detail is even reflected in those materials which are no longer required and are beginning to be moved off site.

Readers will have noticed that a flag is flying at the masthead on the north battlement. It's the Yorkshire flag, and it deserves to be there because it has largely been Yorkshiremen like builders Mark Rutherford Thompson (left) and John-Paul Ashley who have survived for two and a half years in very difficult circumstances to make the Trust's dream of a refurbished Mingary Castle become reality.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

An End in Sight

As is so typical of Ardnamurchan, the weather has been highly variable over the past couple of weeks, with some fine, clear days and some impressive gales. The workmen were rocked around in their caravans on Monday/Tuesday night by a gale that hit hurricane force on the north coast, and they're in for another rough ride over the next 24 hours. The trouble is that the gales leave all sorts of problems behind them: for example, the mobile 'phone network is down again, and the telephones have packed up. For builder Mark Rutherford Thompson, there's little point in carrying on with the sea wall - high tides have coincided with these westerly gales - so the lads who were working on it have gone home for a break.

Despite all the problems, progress has continued to be rapid and, as a result, there's some very good news: the castle itself will be handed back to the Mingary Castle Preservation & Restoration Trust next Friday, when the first of the furnishings which have been in store will also start to arrive.

So today's visit saw impressive steps forward indoors. Almost all the beautiful oak panel work is now in place, leaving the joiners....

....to concentrate on a mass of finishing-off jobs like fixing the brass fittings to the doors. These are great quality, as one would expect from the suppliers, a very old, family-run Bradford hardware firm, H Ellis & Son of Joseph Street, which was established in 1899.

This picture shows the two joiners, the two Martins, who have done the vast majority of the joinery work on the panelling, with 'fettler' Richard at back left.  Those who have the good fortune to visit the castle will be able to enjoy the superb quality of their workmanship for years to come.

But they have plenty still to do.  At centre of this picture is the main door of the castle with, behind it, the smaller door which will go in at the water gate. Since both will be subjected to the very best of Ardnamurchan weather for years to come, at present they're being painted with layer upon layer of varnish.

To the right is the door from the breakfast room into the main kitchen, with all the chinaware still wrapped on the shelves, and to the left are the big glass doors which lead out to the courtyard.

Three other trades are also working hard to the deadline. The maze of wires and pipes associated with the electrical side, the alarm system, and the fire breather system all now come neatly into this little cupboard under the stairs.

Representatives of each of these building trades are shown in this picture. At left is Dom of Mark Galley Decorators; Rob and Tigger of R&B Electrical & Renewables; and Paul of Proficient Plumbing of Whitby, Yorkshire.

Another trade was hard at work in the main room in the West Range. Sandra Jeffrey, who is responsible for all the crewel-work curtains and hangings, has about three weeks work remaining. She's seen here working on one of the hangings for the four poster in the second bedroom in the North Range.

There are still one or two other things which have to be completed. The lift mechanism for the dungeon has to go in - the dungeon will then become the castle's wine cellar - and, although the drawbridge has been fitted, there's still more work to be done on it.

It'll be a couple of months or so before the castle opens for its first guests but the main build, after almost three challenging years, really is approaching completion.