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.
Saturday, 4 April 2015
The Dungeon's Future
We've just been through another patch of rough weather, with snow down to sea level and gales earlier in the week, but the weather is changing for Easter, and my weekly Thursday visit to the castle was in hazy sunshine and a warm, light breeze.
High above, a skein of greylag geese crossed the sky, moving northwards with the changing season, movement which was reflected in the castle workforce, several of whom have gone south for a well-deserved Easter break.
Despite this, there were plenty of progress to be seen since my last visit. The courtyard drains are largely done, and the upper part terrace isn't far from having its Caithness flags laid, but the main progress has been is a small, underground room off the courtyard.
There seems to have been some uncertainty as to what the dungeon was going to be used for. Its entrance, just in from the main gate and above the level of the courtyard, is shared with the western of the two garderobes - and to reach the garderobe one has to step across the dungeon's vertical access point. So, in the days when it was in use, there must have been a wooden hatch covering, and sealing in, the miscreants it contained.
Standing in the entrance and looking down into the dungeon, one can see how confined the space is - it measures 9ft by 4.5ft, and is 8ft high. The access to the garderobe goes round to the left, where the ladder is lying.
Now that a decision has been made on the future of the dungeon, stonemason Damien is working on the stone walls which are badly decayed in places. Access will be by a lift, comprising a platform which, when up, will seal the dungeon and provide a safe crossing to the garderobe, but which will lower to enable the dungeon to be reached.
There certainly isn't much room down there - enough for Damien and one other workman hiding in the corner, so it's hardly a living space. However, there's plenty of room, and certainly the right temperature, for it to store a few bottles - so it's to be the castle's wine cellar.
Imagine the thoughts of its one-time prisoners had they known that, one day, the room would be filled with fine wines!
The arrival of the first oak panelling is imminent, so work on the walls of the rooms in the north range has been progressing quickly. Joiner Martin seems happy enough at his work, and that's one of the bosses at right, Mark Rutherford Thompson, who also seems to be smiling. It must have been the weather, because there have been some frustrating delays recently in the arrival of materials, and Mark hasn't seen his home in three months.