Edinample Castle 2016
Edinample castle dates from the late 16th century. Built as a Z plan Tower House by ‘Black” Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy. It was extended in the 18th and early 20th centuries and by the early 1970’s had fallen into a state of disrepair.
In the early spring of 1996 we were alerted to the existence of Edinample Castle by Ian Begg, a well known architect from Edinburgh. Then, just a few weeks later we received notice that it could be for sale. With just a poor photograph of the shot looking down from South Loch Earn Road, we sprang into action and were very shortly afterwards driving along that very road for a first viewing.On reaching that one spot where Edinample is suddenly in full view, we stopped, looked and decided in an instant that it was for us.
At that time Edinample was under the ownership of the third in line of the restoration project, having already gone through many stages of transformation from being derelict in the early 1970’s. Even after all those years, the place was far from habitable.However the most important work of demolishing the rather ugly 4 storey Victorian extension and rear porch, thus getting Edinample back to its original Z plan structure, had been carried out by the late Peter Nicholson. Peter was a well known tower house restorer and specialist at the time and also the first to work on the Edinample project.
Through the three different ownerships Edinample began to emerge from the sorry state it was in. By 1996, when we took over the restoration, it was basically a shell, without working bathrooms, wc, kitchen, heating, or a serviceable electrical system, etc. Plus it required an enormous amount of detail work to return it to its original form.
It was going to be a colossal job, but we felt sure we would be able to bring Edinample back to life.The last thing we wanted to do was impose our own ideas on the building. Somehow it had to speak for itself and let its personality emerge.
We needed expert advice and were most fortunate when Ian Begg introduced us to Raymond Muszynski, an excellent architect who had been working with Ian on a number of other tower house restorations. He was able to put together the perfect team of specialists that were well equipped to carry out all that was required in a sympathetic manner.
The whole project took 2 years of full time work to complete.
In a quest to find suitable materials we travelled far and wide. Even to find flagstones for the Great Hall seemed like an impossible task. Every type we looked out was in one way or another the wrong colour or texture. Eventually, the perfect ones turned up, having been originally paving stones in the south of France, which were then acquired by gypsies and sold to a London dealer. They have history, which is good and are completely perfect.
The ground floor posed a greater problem as there was a small quantity of original stones, but the floor itself was a mish mash of random stones and concrete. As the castle was dictating the way forward, we had no choice but to take that floor up. We managed to use the original flagstones for one small room and then our stone mason, Jack Gilmour, had the brain wave of taking schist boulders to the stone cutters and have them sliced into special Edinample flagstones.
The Castle stands on a bedrock of schist, is built mainly of schist rubble and now has a wonderful schist ground floor.
Our Guru of a joiner, George Mitchell, had access to a good supply of well seasoned Scottish oak and from this, all the splendid traditional doors with wide planking were made. We have used Scottish oak extensively throughout the building.
Although Peter Nicholson sold the castle on before he had completed his work, he was in constant communication with us and made us some wonderful oak furniture in the Arts and Crafts style, which suits the building very well.
Raymond was most particular in ensuring that everything was done and finished how it would have been in the days of its original glory.
Of course we have used modern equipment, sanitary ware, kitchen ware etc, heating, lighting and numerous other fittings, but everything has been done in sympathy with the building.
In the late 16th century it was fashionable to figuratively paint the Great Hall ceilings. As the ceilings and floors had all rotted by the 1970’s, when the restoration started, we have no knowledge whether the Great Hall ceiling was actually painted.
However, it was agreed that we had a ceiling or two asking to be decorated in such a way. A suitable artist, Kenneth Johnson, well know by Raymond, was commissioned and the exact designs defined. For one year our artist lay on his back on a scaffold tower, painting in the style of the 1580’s. I have always thought of him as "KenAngelo".
He slept on the job in a wee caravan and bathed in the burn. Even through the depths of winter. It was truly an amazing feat, both from the survival aspect and the painting.
It wasn’t all plain sailing and we had a few ups and downs and a disaster or two. The worst being an undiscovered leak. One morning a damp patch appeared in the bottom S W corner of the main block. It was thought to be from outside but on further examination it was clear that it was coming from the first floor, taking a circuitous route over and down the vaulted ceiling of the ground floor. All the new plasterwork had to be stripped off to expose the 1 metre thick walls, which were by that time well and truly sodden. The culprit, a leaky water pipe under the recently laid French flagstone floor, was found in the Great Hall. It took a good year for the walls to completely dry out, after which time we had to start all over again. However, work continued in other areas.
Another excellent specialist in the team was the blacksmith, Stan Pike from Cumbria, who created all the wonderful ironwork inside the castle and also the entrance gates. His work ranged from traditional hinges and door furniture for the solid oak doors, wall sconces in thistle and boar design, chandeliers, forged panels for the head of the spiral stairs, dragon fire dogs for the great hall fire place and various other smaller items.
It was soon time to turn our attention to the exterior. The harling wasn’t in bad shape, but was in need of quite a lot of repair work in the most vulnerable areas. Even a tiny whole or crack is all the rain needs to wriggle it’s way into walls and eventually come out on the inside of the wall.
All the repairs were carried out and it was then time to start choosing the correct shade of pale to paint the harling. This proved to be not so easy either. Most shades of suitable breathable harling paint were too stark, too pink or just not right. But after much experimentation the perfect shade was found. It always looks right no matter what the light conditions are. It gives off a lovely soft hue and even in bright sunlight never appears too stark. It is absolutely ‘the perfect shade of pale’
As for the driveway, we had long thought of rerouting it, as the 1996 version approached the castle from west side of the north west tower. Thus depriving the residents or visitors of the spectacular view when coming down the drive and arriving in front of the building. Again, it was a very demanding job to create the new drive, but well worth all the effort. It is always a joy to drive down and arrive at the front door.
All the way through we let the building speak for itself and speak it did. Everyone involved with bringing it back to life seemed to have a very special relationship with it and understood its language.
We will be forever grateful to this amazing team of Scottish craftsmen for their dedication and expertise.
Edinample castle is a very special building, comforting and very welcoming.
Diana Britten 2016
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