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.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Winter's End?

In a community like this one, where much of its daily business is outdoors, the weather is always a topic of conversation, and the same's true on a building site.  Readers will be aware that we've had a truly dreadful winter, with unprecedented quantities of rainfall, and more gales than anyone can remember.  John-Paul Ashley, the partner in Ashley Thompson who has been on site almost continuously throughout this deluge, always planned a huge speeding up of the work once March came in, and now, with winter behind us, we're on the edge of that acceleration.

Not that progress hasn't been considerable despite the weather.  The pointing of the interior of the curtain walls is now up to battlement level.  The next stage here is to rebuild the walkway and replace the flags so that the pointing can be completed, after which the whole courtyard interior is to be plastered.  While at one time there was talk of also plastering the outside of the curtain walls - they were once 'harled' , as it's called here, so they were almost white, something which would have made the castle stick out like a modern lighthouse - this won't now happen.

At the same time, the gable ends will be rebuilt on the main building, the 'north range', after which the new roof will go on - what can be seen here is the temporary roof which has kept the interior of the castle dry through the Ardnamurchan winter.  To do this, the chimneys and their flues will have to be installed.  With the roof on, work can continue apace in the interior.

Those of you with sharp eyes will have noticed that the last tufts of grass remaining on Mingary Castle are to be seen in this picture, on top of the west chimney.

We've had a couple of sunny days to cheer us and remind us that winter is almost over, but the two workmen building the structure which will house the biomass boiler - Paul and Richard - seemed to think that the blockwork went up better in today's misty conditions.  Looking at the building now one can see its main features.  The passage on the left will house a staircase coming down through a hatch at the level of the car park.  The area at top right will contain the hopper which holds the wood chip - all from Ardnamurchan Estate forests - while the area at right is for the boiler.


  1. In the first photo, looking down on the rocks, is it an optical illusion or was there some sort of 'harbour' there at one time? There is what appears to be a rectangular area of water, surrounded by rocks, that is almost the shape of a dry dock! I have not seen that before.

  2. Exactly the same thought went through my mind. It reminded me of one of the old London Docks. That it was visible is a trick of the tides. It's well worth a little more investigation.

    1. Just looked at Argyllshire Sheet XX1V 6" OS its edition 1872 and below the castle there is marked Port Ur. The landward side of the shoreline rocks is marked as a very straight line, was in the photo. I guess this is the same location?

  3. I see what you mean on the map. 'Ur' in Gaelic means 'new' or 'fresh' or 'recent'. So this is the 'new port' or 'new harbour'. So does 'new' mean it was made to replace something older which wasn't as good? The trouble with that dock is that it's covered at high tide, it's terribly exposed - unless there was some sort of sea wall round it which has since disappeared. Yet, in the days of the MacIains, they had lots of ships which, presumably, needed somewhere to be moored.