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.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Snow Brings Problems

It's a misconception that all areas of the Scottish Highlands have lots of snow in winter.  The west coast, of which the Kilchoan area is a typical example, has very little and, when it comes, it's usually gone again within a day or two.  So the snow that arrived overnight, and continued to lower levels through this morning, makes a change from the succession of wet days we've been enduring, but it doesn't help John-Paul Ashley's builders in the slightest.

Since the beginning of the week they've been cracking on with blockwork of the biofuel boiler house, which is growing rapidly at the eastern end of the moat.  The pillars on the far side will bear steel girders which will carry further girders running across the roof, onto which a platform will be built.  This will probably be grassed over, so one will be able to walk from the car park across to the base of the north curtain wall.  Further, the wall on this side of the boiler house will be faced with stone, so the building will effectively disappear.

This picture shows Liam at work on the blocks, but it's far from easy.  The mortar is taking an age to 'go off' - that is, harden - because of the low temperatures, which were struggling to make 2C when I was there.  One can still push one's finger into the mortar between blocks that were laid a week ago, and some of it may take almost a month to go off fully.  Also, since blocks need to be reasonably dry when laid, they have to keep well covered the great piles of blocks which have been brought down ready to be laid.

While three of the lads are working in the moat, others were hiding behind the plastic covers on the top lift of the scaffolding against the east wall.  Since most of the current weather is coming in from the southwest, the plastic is an attempt to keep the wall dry while....

....Michael (above) and J-P start the long task of pointing the walls - that is, painstakingly pushing mortar into the gaps between the stones to replace mortar lost over the past few hundred years.  The work along this section is relatively quick as this wall, which will be internal to the refurbished east building, will be 'harled' - that is, have a layer of plaster covering it - so the pointing and stonework won't be visible.

Meanwhile, in the recently-excavated chapel, archaeologist Kenny Macfadyen was creating some more of his beautifully detailed drawings as he charts the interior of the room.  Kenny is expecting to be around for a fortnight, after which the archaeological work on site is finished - though there are hours of work still to be done back at Addyman Archaeology in Edinburgh.

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