It was a beautiful early summer's day today when I walked across from Mingary Steading, where Ardnamurchan Estate's office is located, to the castle. The excavations at the moat were deserted, as was the interior of the castle, so I spent some time wandering around it, looking at the progress and very aware of the silence, broken only some pigeons which are nesting along the battlements.
But when I walked up a track opposite the castle to take a photograph from a different angle I found one man at work - Phil Masters of Ashley Thompson builders was working his way through the great pile of muddy, wet stone that had been brought up from the interior of the castle and the moat - the pile awaiting his attention is in the foreground of this picture.
Phil is cleaning, if not quite polishing, every single stone. When Phil, who is from Middlestone in Yorkshire, explained what he was doing, at first I couldn't believe it. Every stone is cleaned, then sorted into piles according to its size, with some special ones - like the yellow sandstone blocks from around the doors and windows of the main range - placed separately. It's another indication of the painstaking work that's going on here.
The rest of the builders are away at the moment because they're waiting for the archaeologists to finish in the main range. Then they'll scaffold its interior, giving the archaeologists access to the 'vertical archaeology', the story told in the walls of buildings which have been altered several times in their existence. The scaffolding will also give the workmen safe access to the tops of the walls, which have seen the biggest invasion by vegetation such as ivy, and are therefore highly unstable. As each block comes down, it'll be numbered, cleaned, and returned, in due course, to exactly the same place.
Ar present, the rooms in the building where Phil is working are mainly used for storage - some of these carefully wrapped parcels are the oak stair treads from the north range staircase - but later they'll be the centre of Ashley Thompson's activities. For example, one room already houses the mixer for preparing the mortar which will be used to repoint the walls, something that can't be done on site because every mix has to absolutely identical.
When I told Phil I'd wandered round the inside of the castle I was giving the most gentle of rebukes. No-one, Phil explained, for obvious health and safety reasons, should be inside alone. With the upper walls so unstable, a block might fall off at any moment, and there would be no way of summoning help.