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, 8 January 2016

Welcoming Warmth on a Wet Day

Getting back to work after a good holiday is difficult enough in any circumstances, but the Mingary Castle team returned to find that one of several gales we've enjoyed in their absence had knocked one of their caravans off its mountings and cut the power to the site, so all their freezers were full of soggy, defrosted food. To add to their joys, the weather since their return can best be described as.... wet and grey.

This didn't mean I found a bunch of miserable people when I visited the site yesterday morning - on the contrary, work was proceeding with a new vigour, even though Chris and Richard, organising the reinforcing rods and shuttering for the next pour of concrete for the sea wall, were working in wind-driven sleet.

Builder John-Paul Ashley was rightly anxious to show me the map that he'd fitted behind the hob in the kitchen. It shows the Ardnamurchan peninsula, its villages and wildlife in a pictorial representation which has been fired onto a reinforced glass panel. It's quite a feature for the kitchen.

But what really strikes one when entering the north range now is the panelling. The panels on the side of the lowest flight of stairs are now in place, as well as the half-height panelling up much of the stairs and on the landings, and it looks stunning.

Although there's still panelling to arrive - as can be seen from this picture - what has arrived and is in place gives this building a mature warmth that is a tonic in this weather. There's no doubt that the panelling will be one of the most memorable features for visitors who come to stay in the castle. It's even more welcoming when one walks into the building on a cold, damp day - the panelling and the wood-chip fired heating, which keeps what might be a chilly castle building wonderfully warm.

The two big fire surrounds, one in the dining room and one in the sitting room - shown here - have both been fitted. They are impressive pieces of woodwork. Normally, such pieces would have had a cheap MDF base, but these are solid oak and, as a result, weighed a ton when they tried to manouevre them into position. These rooms are now almost finished and they're beautiful.

Attention to detail has always been a feature of the work here. This picture shows Richard using a core bit to cut 'pellets', tiny round pieces of wood which cover the screw holes in the wood panels. This 'dirty' work is all being done in the dining room as Sandra Jeffrey is back and about to start hanging the curtains - which do not want to get dusty.

Masses of carved oak has arrived so the joiners can build the architraves round all the arched doors. Each architrave has to be built to fit, which means a great deal of measuring and cutting has to be  done so that....

....they fit an individual entrance. Martin Chandler is seen here fitting one around the door into the bathroom in the west wing.

Long-term readers of this blog will recall that the breakfast room was the only additional structure, and was built into an angle of the courtyard between the east range and the north range, with doors formed into each.  This picture shows the back of the breakfast room where a door leads into the only room in the castle which has not been refurbished - one of the three garderobes. It's a very small room with a Caithness stone floor and....

....a hole beneath which is a long drop to the beach below. This, for obvious safety reasons, and to keep the draughts out, will be covered with a glass plate but is otherwise largely unaltered. However, this ancient toilet does have one modern feature - interior lighting.

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