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.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Out of the Chrysalis

It's like a magnificent butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, a 700-year old castle returned to its pre-mediaeval grandeur after all the years of battle against the weather, human neglect, wars and sieges, collapsing foundations, pounding waves, burrowing animals and invasive vegetation.

Scaffolder John Forsyth and the lads working for Ashley-Thompson, who carried all the scaffolding pieces up by hand have, in ten days, got it back down to ground level and have only stopped because John has gone off on a well-deserved holiday.  He'll be back shortly to complete the job.

This picture shows the north curtain wall, ten foot thick and over 40 high.  The top few feet and the battlements are relatively recent, but the bulk of what we're looking at is 13th century with just a few bits of modern restoration - like the new stone round the lancet windows.

Looking from the ferry terminal one can see that, on the south side, the scaffolding is right down to sea level, and people waiting for the ferry can now see the attic rooms of the north range, with their four dormer windows, protruding above the level of the battlements.

This picture shows just a small part of the masses of scaffolding and other fittings neatly stacked near the castle.  Just to give an idea of the scale of this, there are twelve tons of scaffold clips. They, and the two trailers already loaded with scaffolding planks, are waiting to be moved, along with all the rest of it, to Ardnamurchan Estate's sheds at Caim, where they'll await transport back along the peninsula.

For those of us that come along occasionally to admire, the emerging building may be a wonderful sight but, for the Yorkshiremen working for Ashley-Thompson, and Mark Thompson himself (at right), there's no time to stand and stare.  But they seemed to be particularly cheerful yesterday morning - something about the contractors who had delivered the railings for the inside of the battlements having problems getting the heavy steel sections from the car park ....

....into the courtyard and then up the very steep stone stairway.... the battlements.  It certainly wasn't easy work - look closely at the expressions on Chris and Richard's faces - but I think what drove them was that the railing contractors came from Lancashire.

If what's going on outside was exciting, there are some gems beginning to appear within the buildings.  These are the steps in the intramural passageway, built within the original massive stone walls, running down from just outside the chapel to the first floor level.  The white plaster is superbly contrasted against the dark Caithness stone flags.  Laying the flags is an intricate job as there are no straight lines, and it's complicated by there being electric heating under the stone.

The interior of the west range, where Martin and James are working, is unrecognisable.  This is to be the accommodation for the housekeepers when the castle becomes available for rent later this year, and a very comfortable place to live it will be.

There's so much going on in and around the castle that one hardly notices the weather, but it has been exceptionally cold and wet for May.  Not that this has deterred the beautiful wild orchids, which have been growing here for centuries, from producing their annual display.

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