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

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Progress on Every Level

After almost 30mm of rain over the weekend, it was good to find the castle in bright sunshine for the start of the working week.

In this picture, taken from the northeast and looking across the Sound of Mull to Mull, the whole castle and its sheath of scaffolding looks as if it's leaning to the left.  This effect seems to be particularly evident in today's post, where several pictures show vertical structures - which the castle still is - appearing to lean perilously.

Once again, a huge amount has been achieved since my last visit.  Stonemason Damien, working on the interior gable, has cut through the roof timbers and is completing the chimney.  Working downwards from the roof....

....the first studwork has gone in at the west end of the second floor.  Builder Mark Rutherford Thompson told me today that some 43 tonnes of wood has been brought in to build the roof and the three floor levels, every bit of it carried in by hand.

At the east end, work has continued on the gable end, where a chimney has to be built up.  The door opening to the left is the one which, if you turn left, leads to the chapel, and....

....down the intramural passage to the first floor level if you turn right.  Here, because of the damage that was done to the interior part of the curtain wall when the chimney was put in early in the 18th century, the builders have had to insert concrete lintels rather than oak, as in the rest of the passage, and these....

 ....are visible in the back of the chimney, just to the left of the blue rope.

Meanwhile, on the first floor Nick is laying the plywood floor which will carry an insulated floor that will carry the underfloor heating.  At the rate they're progressing, they'll need the plumbers and electricians in soon to do their first fix.

On the ground floor, the old door between the main, west room and the back of the stairwell has been reopened.

For the last five weeks a group of Swedish students have been working on the castle.  They've turned their hands to anything they've been asked to do, such as shifting building materials, cleaning out rubble, and a bit of carpentry, but mostly they've worked steadily away at the pointing, with the result that it's now 90% complete.  Sara and Brask, on the left, are leaving tomorrow, both returning to their building conservation studies, while Lars (in red tee shirt) and Adam are staying on for four more weeks, which should see the pointing finished.  While the work hasn't always been easy, they've worked cheerfully at it and have a sense of achievement - that they've made a significant contribution to the restoration of this wonderful old building.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Working on the North Range

When I visited the castle last week, picture above, the joists on the first floor were just going in.  By the time I went down on Tuesday....

....not only had they been completed and a temporary floor laid, but so had....

....the second floor.  At the top of this picture is the attic floor, completed a fortnight ago.

On the roof, the sarking boards are now all in place, and the next stage is to cover it with felt.  Battens will then be laid along the roof to take the slates which are being laid by a specialist, local contractor.

In the attic, Damien, seen here with Nick, is working on the the stone interior gable which contains four chimneys.  Once he has it high enough to become load-bearing for the roof timbers, then they'll cut through them and he'll complete the chimney from the outside.

One of the most interesting aspects of my regular visits to the castle has been meeting the workmen.  Most are either specialists or have been in the trade some time, but both last week and this I met younger men who are up here experiencing an almost unique opportunity.

Joe Firth is one of the apprentice builders who has been working here for the last few weeks.  He's from Otley, Leeds, left school last year, and has been accepted onto a building course at college this autumn.  Although his father is a plumber, Joe intends to specialise in plastering, building or painting/decorating.  He says that working at Mingary has been a great experience, and he's enjoyed most of his time up here - what he hasn't enjoyed has been some of the weather, and being so far from good shops.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Attic Room Takes Shape

The weather doesn't look too special in this picture of Mingary taken on Tuesday morning looking across the Sound of Mull towards Tobermory, but it was, in fact, a beautiful, fine morning, in contrast to the previous day, when it rained and blew force 5 from the southeast, necessitating several of the workmen to be moved to inside jobs.  The weather was as bad, perhaps worse, yesterday, with a proper westerly blowing and 19mm of what's locally termed 'Kilchoan sunshine' - but that's the nature of a Scottish summer.

Despite this, progress in the last week has been spectacular.  Traditional roof joiners Martin and Sam Chandler have put a sturdy roof on the north range, and it's now covered with sarking boards.  The four dormer windows on the southern aspect can now be seen, along....

....with the windows and door on the north side.  The door is in the foreground, with the flagged walkway round the battlements just on the outside.  These flags are unusual as they're made of local, billion-year old Moine schists - outcrops of this rock are plentiful just to the east along Loch Sunart, and it would be interesting to try to identify the quarry from which they came.

The new roof encloses the attic space.  One can now walk around inside it and get a feel for these rooms, which will be one of the features of the castle, with their 25-mile views and access to the battlement walkway.

Stonemason Damien Summerscales was working on the western gable end.  He works fast and without let-up, so supplying him with rocks and mortar is a full-time job.

The young man helping him, who has to carry the heavy buckets of mortar up two storeys and then reach them up to Damien, is labourer-apprentice Callum McParland who comes from Queensbury, Bradford, in Yorkshire.  Callum left college last year having followed a course in public service provision, but....

.....he's filling in the summer by working up here while he awaits the medical and a short introductory course which should lead to him into the Royal Navy.  Meanwhile, the lad is being worked extra hard - Damien is his uncle.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Timbers On

The castle seen from the sea yesterday with the roof timbers on the north range completed on schedule.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Roof Goes On

Having been away from Kilchoan for a few days, I set off for the castle this morning with some excitement, as things have been moving forward very quickly recently - but I hadn't expected the progress I found: the roof structure on the north range, the main building within the courtyard, is almost complete, and will be finished by Thursday.

This pictures shows the side that buts against the north curtain wall, which will have nine windows and one access door from the attic rooms onto the battlements, while....

....this is the south-facing side, with its four dormer windows which will have wonderful views across the Sound of Mull.

The wood is douglas fir, and the men responsible for the joinery are....

....from right to left, traditional roof joiner Martin Chandler, his son Sam, and builders Ashley-Thompson's Nick Smith.

Martin's from Yorkshire, and has been working on the repair and rebuilding of old roofs for some 46 years, starting on the roof of Bradford cathedral after it was burnt down in a fire.  He's more used to projects like barn conversions: this is the first time he's worked on a castle, but he seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

Meanwhile, Damien Summerscales has completed the repairs to the interior of the sea-facing curtain walls, and laid the foundation of the walkway which will run round the battlements, and which will be topped with whinstone flags.  Residents will be able to walk from the attic room right round the battlements.

Inside the north range, the scaffolding has largely been dropped.  This shows the wall plates which are going in the support the joists for the first floor, with more timber being carefully manoeuvred in through one of the lancet windows.  From this level, scaffolding will be built up to enable the joists to go in on the remaining floors.

Despite the attentions of the local midge population, which particularly enjoy a damp, still morning, the site was buzzing with activity.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Locally-Sourced Timber

A mile or so along the road out of Kilchoan village, in an area called Caim, stand three large sheds.  The nearer two are used by the farming side of Ardnamurchan Estate for their extensive cattle and sheep-rearing activities, but the more distant shed has a special purpose for Mingary Castle.  It was built recently to house....

....two large ovens, one of which is shown here, that are being used to dry timber for use in the rebuilding of the three ranges in the castle.  This wood has all come from Ardnamurchan Estate land and is part of the effort being made to source materials locally in the way they would have been, over 700 years ago, when the castle was first built.

John-Paul Ashley, one of the partners in Ashley Thompson, the company which is carrying out the building work, was kind enough to show me the facility.  The wood which has been through the drying process is seen in this picture stacked up ready for grading.  It includes oak, Douglas fir and larch.  It is planned that much of this will go in to the extensive panelling work that will be such a feature of the interior of the castle when it's completed.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Attic Rooms Take Shape

From the battlements first thing this morning one could watch two very different fishing boats working the waters to the east of the castle.  The one on the right is a small creel boat, setting creels - lobster pots - to catch prawns (langoustines), while the one on the left is a coble, a boat with a traditional design for catching the wild salmon which still run along this coast.

Progress in the castle continues to be rapid.  On the north range, the wooden roof plates, the timbers which run along the tops of the stone walls to take the roof, are in position, while....

....the floor joist supports, which will carry the wooden floors of the attic level, are being fixed in place.  As can be seen, the attic itself appears quite a small space, but will be one of the best areas of the house as it will have dormer windows which look out over the battlements and across the Sound of Mull.

Within the courtyard, the stonemasons are hard at work rebuilding the inner courses of the walls up to battlement level.  This stonework looks extremely good but the plan at present is to cover the exposed interior of the curtain walls with a layer of plaster.

In this picture we're looking at upper part of the west range, the building that used to house, at various stages, a kitchen, stable, forge, storage areas and sleeping accommodation.  The plan for its future is that it will become accommodation for the housekeeper who will look after the clients who rent the castle on a weekly basis.