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

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Autumn Mists

Thick mist blanketed the site this morning yet people commuting in to work from outside Kilchoan were reporting bright sunshine a few miles up the road. This must have been the sunniest week of the summer, even though we're now well into autumn, and it has enabled the builders to press on with outside work such as the formal gardens at the front of the castle.

This is a view of the area in front of the castle taken from the top of the north curtain wall, with the moat just visible at bottom left. The strange structure with the green roof....

....was built a week or so ago when the forecast was - incorrectly - for rain, and was designed so the stonemason could work on the arch in the dry. In the event it's acted as an awning, and the stonemason hasn't been able to work up a suntan.

Several of the blocks from the original arch were missing, so Damien has been fashioning them from the bottoms of the stone pillars which are being erected at the entrance to the castle. The four stones seen here forming the lower part of the arch are originals, while the four down the sides were made on site.

Each week seems to see the arrival of a new specialist contractor, but this week there was a welcome return by Dave Morris, managing director of Design Glass and its sister company Touchstone, with his team, Alex Bottomley and Andy Mitchell, to fit the three 'windows' between the breakfast room and the courtyard. Like the little windows they installed here previously - see earlier entry here - these ones are beautifully crafted and were being installed with great attention to detail.

Builder John-Paul Ashley showed me round the west range, which is now close to completion. The internal stairs are now in, as is the fire alarm system, and upstairs....

....where the skirting are now in, one begins to get an impression of what the rooms will be like once the job is done. This is the bedroom, with the steps at the far end leading up to the bathroom.

While the west range was originally planned to be the managers' quarters, it will now be part of the letting space of the castle, so it can be booked separately from the main range for longer or shorter stays.

Many of the rooms in the north range are still awaiting the arrival of their oak panelling, so little work was happening there this morning, the exception being the electricians Tigger and Brett, who estimate that perhaps 80% or more of the second fix is now done.

Another area which is approaching completion is the attic, where the three doors have gone in. This is a pleasantly bright area of the main range, with its two bedrooms and a bathroom between, and easy access out onto the battlements.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Hanging Structures

There was a distinct chill in the weather this morning as I turned in between the newly erected stone gate posts and walked down into the car park, where Chris was busy building what looked like a scaffold at the far side of the ornamental gardens - the sort of scaffold on which the MacIains who once owned Mingary used to hang people.
But it was no such thing. Damien the stonemason who, with the help of site mascot Sophie, was working on the wall to the right of the castle entrance, needs some protection from the rain while he....

....rebuilds the stone door surround which the archaeologists rescued from the moat. This is the one which was scorched when the forces of Alasdair MacColla MacDonald besieged the castle in 1645 and burned down the main door - see earlier story here. The arch it forms will be the central feature of a drystone wall to be built along the south side of the formal garden. JJ Dagnell, seen here, was helping Chris with the scaffolding structure.

Damien has been busy. The stone plinth described in last week's blog is finished and awaits the artwork for which it has been built.

Also very busy have been the two electricians, Tigger on the left and Brett, who had just turned on the lights for the first time in the west wing.

The difficult task of hanging the chandelier in the breakfast room was completed while I was away. The difficulty arose partly from the ceiling being sloping but mainly because of the weight of the cast iron, which meant the builders had to dig through the plasterwork ceiling to find a secure anchor point.

James Travers from Emtec Fire Systems was on site today to commission the high pressure water mist system that is being fitted in the main building's kitchen. In the event of a fire, a monitor on the ceiling triggers a pump, seen in the cupboard, which delivers a high pressure water/air mixture to....

....two nozzle units situated just above the worktops. These produce a fine mist which fills the room and effectively blankets the fire and starves it of oxygen.  Read more about the system and its advantages here.

Martin Theaker continues to work on the oak panelling in the north range, but took a moment out to demonstrate a sample of the crewel work panelling which will run above the dado rail in the rooms on the first and second floors, and above the stairs. Crewel work is a type of embroidery, and the lengths of cloth are fixed over padding on a plywood base before being hung on the wall, a job which Martin will be doing.

The oak panelling and door surrounds, modelled here by builder Mark Rutherford-Thompson, continue to go in steadily but there's a long way to go before the project reaches completion.

Many thanks to Mingary Castle managers Holly and Chris Bull for taking care of the blog while I was away.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Progress is a wonderful thing.

We saw classic west coast weather today and we should have expected the clear skies to turn dark but instead we got soaked during our visit as we had forgotten our coats...

but a bit of bad weather is not enough to slow progress. There is now a raised plinth in the centre of the garden.........

and the gate posts are now in and look fantastic. They still have one more to instal for the main gate. The pedestrian gate is ready to be hung after Damian has done another great job of the surrounding walling.

The next part of the joinery is appearing as the door linings are on site and being made up to be fitted....

and there is a new door in the kitchen, its great to see it has glass panels to let in the light as there are no windows!

The profile of the door casements and all the panelling have been specifically designed for Mingary by the architect and taylor made showing the high level of detail going into the building....

All the Master Bedroom door casements have been fitted and the room is now ready for the fabric panels to be fitted.

The electricians from R&B Electrics are back on site and here is Bret testing lighting through out the castle before.......

.....going on to add the final fixtures. We love the pattern these cast on the ceiling on the top floor.

With so many builders and tradesmen on site it is always a pleasure to see how much care and the work they put into everything, even the tidying up. The broom was moving so fast I couldn't get a picture that wasn't blurred.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Make hay while the sunshines

So today on site everybody seems to be taking advantage of the late 'indian' summer we have been enjoying these past few days. Not to be left out we decided to give you an update on outdoor activities at the castle.

Starting at the top of the castle (with the sun beaming) I found JP (site manager, one of the directors at Ashley Thompson) topping off the harling on the chimneys. This will protect the stone from absorbing all the water when it rains.

I found Damien, our resident stone mason, doing a great job laying the garden paths, which are cut from the same Cathness stone that has been used throughout the castle.

This is an amazing stone arch which was discovered in the moat during excavation and is going to be re-assembled.......

creating a beautiful entrance to the new garden......

where there will be native hedging surrounding the garden, that is to the North of the castle, with lawns in quadrants and flower beds established later once the hedging is there to protect them from the winds and sea spray.

Finally the first of the two huge (2m tall) gate posts have arrived and are soon to be in position ready for when the gates arrive.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Walk-Round with the Manager

We're in a run of cool northerly winds which are bringing bright sunny intervals and light showers, but also the first feel of autumn, so it was good to be able to walk dry-foot down to the castle along the newly-laid tarmac surface. I like the way the castle seems to hide behind the oak trees until one is almost upon it.

I accompanied Holly Bull who, with husband Chris, will be managing Mingary Castle once it is handed over by the builders in a few weeks time. She's seen here talking to builder Mark Rutherford-Thompson. One of the areas that's still rather inaccessible is the upper floor of the west wing, where there is....

....a bright and airy bedroom with, beyond it.... en suite bathroom.  Areas of the castle like this will be available to bed & breakfast clients as well as those looking for a longer-term stay.

Holly and Chris are busy working on the Mingary Castle website - there's a holding page here - as well as dealing with all the furniture and fittings which are beginning to arrive. For example, Holly was discussing with Mark Thompson a chandelier which is to be fitted in the breakfast room which lies between the east and north ranges.

We admired the radiators have begun to go in to the north range. The one seen here is one of those in the attic rooms, and all will be run off the wood chip boiler. As Holly pointed out, visitors will be able to sit on the windowsill to enjoy the view across the Sound of Mull to Tobermory while keeping their feet warm.

Behind the radiator is the first of the oak skirting boards which are being fitted throughout the range. Working on this was....

.... joiner Martin Theaker whom we watched as he cut a length of skirting into which he had made 'windows' for the electrical fittings.

Where the joiners have completed a job the electricians follow. Tony Tigger Peacock, one of the electricians from R&B Electrical & Renewables, was fitting sockets into and above the units completed last week by local joiner Ian Cargill in the small kitchen/utility in the east range.

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 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.