New Dunans Rising Tartan website: The Gift of Tartan for #DunansCastle

We’re always looking for ways to promote the restoration of Dunans Castle and the sale of products made from our tartan, Dunans Rising, is an ideal way of doing so.

In the registration of our tartan we say:

[….] for the use of those who have aided the restoration of Dunans Castle, including those who have contributed time, expertise or knowledge to the project (whether as part of a contract or voluntarily).

from the Tartan Register of Scotland

In other words, our lairds and ladies can wear the tartan by virtue of the fact that the titles they own have helped restore the castle. For those who buy the tartan, it becomes theirs by right because in the purchase they aid the castle’s restoration.

To promote this latter idea we have set up a new website, in which we offer our full tartan range – garments, accessories and soft toys – we hope you enjoy it!ourtartan-registration ourtartanbears

Just as a small note on the technical side of things. The new website uses a wordpress install, a .clothing domain and shopify [delivering the ecommerce side].

Sculpture at Dunans: Andy McClintock exhibits at Dunans throughout 2015

This year we are proud to be exhibiting several pieces by Andy McClintock in the grounds. The sculptures are ranged around our path network as well as inside the castle, for visitors to stumble upon at unexpected junctures. We’re presently developing signage for the exhibit and will have it in place for our opening at the beginning of April.

And the poster for this year:


Alternate Paths: Winter deluge creates opportunity to create a new loop at Dunans

As you may have gathered, we had a particularly destructive winter – or rather the weather during this last winter caused major destruction… we’ve had landslips and mud slumps, there are cracks in paths and repairs are a necessity. But in one stretch (where the landslip is) the difficulties in repair have meant that we have had to take the decision to create a new loop of pathway above the ravine. We’ve therefore utilised space created by our clearance of the invasive rhododendron ponticum to make the space we need.

The photos, taken a couple of weeks back show the beginnings – of course its muddy, its Argyll – and below these, I’ve included a capture of the new signage we’re having made to show visitors where to walk. Once the new cuts have stabilised, we’ll use geotextile to line the paths, wood milled onsite as edging and type one aggregate to provide the main body of the paths.

And an excerpt from the new sign … the yellow points show the new loop, and the faded mauve the closed paths.


Our #Indiegogo #Campaign Kicks Off: Let’s Restore Historic Dunans Bridge

So very excited to launch our Crowdsource funding campaign today on Indiegogo, with a great video and lots of super pics.



Here’s the text of our Press Release:

Dunans Bridge Bicentenary Restoration takes huge step forward

New IndieGogo Campaign to Restore A-listed, Thomas-Telford-designed, Dunans Bridge

Today sees the launch of a crowdfund campaign to accelerate the restoration of one of Argyll’s architectural jewels, the 16m (45ft) high Dunans Bridge in Glendaruel, Cowal. The bridge which gives access to B-Listed Dunans Castle and crosses Argyll’s-own “Grand Canyon”, the Chaol Ghleann gorge, is in need of serious repair, and is the first stage in the recently published Conservation Plan for Dunans written by eminent conservation architect Robin Kent, which culminates in the restoration of B-listed Dunans Castle in 2019 into a public building with Visitor Centre, Event space and Lairds’ and Ladies’ accommodation.

Over the last six months the team at Dunans has been working through the preliminaries to get the restoration of the bridge going, including producing drawings, defining specifications, undertaking investigatory works and clearing vegetation. The bridge is now ready for the works, and these works need to happen urgently.

As Charles says, “We’re hoping to gift the bridge the best 200th birthday present it could possibly get – a complete restoration. Sadie and myself are very excited to think that in 8 or 9 months time, the bridge’s future will be assured and we can celebrate our achievement with a huge Bridge Birthday celebration!”

Grant-funding applications are being made for this project by the Dunans Charitable Trust to Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund, but because funding streams are never certain, Charles and Sadie Dixon-Spain decided that an Indiegogo campaign would be the ideal way of raising the profile of the bridge and also raising funds for the restoration and events programme that will be delivered alongside the works.

Culminating in a Bridge party in late summer 2015, the works will last between 6 and 8 months, and restore the bridge to a pristine state in its bicentenary year. The 200th anniversary of Thomas Telford completing the bridge is worth celebrating in itself, and preparing the bridge for a further 200 years of service is a fitting gift to the structure.

The IndieGogo campaign will also mark the first and only time that the title Laird or Lady of Dunans Bridge will be available. As a perk of contributing to the campaign, the title, and sundry other benefits, like scarves, ties and personalised email addresses, will be augmented with a permanent record of the names of Contributors, online, by the Bridge and, once restored, inside the castle too.

The page for our Indiegogo campaign is

Charles and Sadie, along with the team at Dunans, have been working tirelessly over the last few years, particularly since the beginning of the Scottishlaird Project in December 2007 to restore Castle and Bridge. With over 120,000 Lairds and Ladies now supporting the project, and providing over 5,000 visits* to the site in 2014 alone, this campaign has every chance of reaching its target of £411,600 as well as making a significant and lasting contribution to the local and regional economy.

*VisitScotland figures show that these 5,000 visits are worth a total of £2M to the local economy, with visits to Dunans being the primary motivation behind the visitors trip to Argyll (from within the UK) and Scotland (for our international Lairds and Ladies)


Topographical Survey at Dunans: GMGeomatics completes a detailed scan of the grounds around the castle.

This weekend the final survey at Dunans was completed – an accurate survey of the ground around the castle is absolutely key when planning drainage, access and outbuildings. Gregor from GM Geomatics spent the day with multiple yellow tripods and lasers, and we should see the results shortly!


Note the tripod and tallest tree leaning slightly to the right – more about the cameraman than the surveyor!

This is the area surveyed:

Dunans_OSsurveyThe final element of the detailed survey work is an interior dimensional survey of the castle – which requires clearance of the interior spaces.


Investigating Dunans Bridge: Checking the underlying structure of our Thomas Telford-designed A-listed structure

This week the bridge is being investigated – carefully, slowly and with due regard for its age, possible infirmaties and status.

Our structural engineer, Steve Wood (David Narro Associates) , Heritage Consolidation, the contractors, our QS Gordon Brown (Brown & Wallace), our Planning advisor, John Paton (Paton Planning & Development) and of course our architect, Robin Kent (Robin Kent Architecture & Conservation), along with the scaffolders had a day working on and planning for the bridge – as well as the rest of the site.

Of course we took lots of photos, see below, and the initial conclusions were very interesting.

In the second trench (this sounds SO like Time Team) we discovered an extraordinary structural indicator that would, if confirmed by historical experts, mean that Thomas Telford did indeed design and build the bridge (there’s no extant paperwork). Needless to say Architect, Structural Engineer, Heritage Consolidation and ScottishLaird are all very, very excited.

We’ll post more via our Lairds and Ladies newsletter later next week!

The Bridge gets a shave and we finally meet “Speak-no-evil” and “Hear-no-evil” our beautiful gargoyles!

Bank Holiday weekend and we persuaded some friends to volunteer their climbing and rope-access skills to help us begin the process of restoring the bridge to its former glory. Working flat out Pos, Trish, Rory, Diana, Dan, Georgie, and H made a real difference to the structure. Thanks to everyone for their efforts.

One of the highlights was finding  that the Gargoyles are indeed a set of three: from the photo below we have “Speak no evil” nearest us, with his hand over his mouth and “Hear no evil”, with her hand over her ear, in the middle. We presume that “See no evil” is the one closest to the road, but we couldn’t get to her in the time we had available – although Trish nearly got there!

What we have also established is that they are beautifully carved in great detail – we’ll try and get some detailed shots soon!


Tender for the Bridge in hand: We’ve just received the specifications for the first stage of the restoration of Dunans Bridge

Robin Kent, our architect, has just sent over these plans for the first stage of works to the bridge. The works will include two trial pits, with one being dug nearly through the structure. There will be scaffolding to shore up the deeper pit, and there will also be investigations into the construction of the top of the buttress so we can work out how to proceed with them.

This is all very exciting and presages works beginning sometime in August for a week or so, as necessary.

Here’s the plan and the elevation showing where and how the works will be executed (they are copyright Robin Kent Ltd. and may not be reproduced without permission from the architect).

elevbridge-tender planbridge-tender

New Signage to Welcome our Visitors: Fàilte do na Dùnanan

In the ongoing redesign of our signage, I have now got to the one which welcomes folk to Dunans. A bilingual sign, I’ve taken the opportunity to tie the whole visual aesthetic into the Dunans Rising tartan, as displayed in the logo middle top. I have also add a Tours panel and shown where to find the Lairds’ and Ladies’ plots. Parking areas are now also marked, and we’ve also got the route to the front of the castle in place. The non-public areas are also shown to avoid confusion, as is the site office – from which the business is run too.


This is also the sign which will initiate the marking out of the paths (finally). As you can see we have chosen white and purple and will mark the routes accordingly – so no more getting lost in the wilds of Dunans!!

I’ll show our markers when done – the purple is called ‘Summer Damson’…