Original Plans of Dunans Castle: Or at least how we think the house was laid out …

When we purchased Dunans in 2003 we did not receive any of the historic documentation. While the Fletchers hand the paperwork on in good faith, the subsequent owner did not pass the plans on. It is a great pity, because without those plans and specifications we are unable to say that the work that Robin Kent, our architect, has put into creating these drafts has resulted in an entirely accurate rendition.

Certainly what we have here reflects our knowledge – won from the building over the years of clearance and renovation – but whether the family originally intended this layout is a moot point. There are a couple of revisions we have already noted given some of the clearance we have achieved, but it does seem an entirely selfish act on the part of the ex-owner to withhold these papers, unless of course they lost the archive entirely …

What these plans also show is how little service room the house originally had, and how essential the Dunans Steadings must have been to the household economy.


The plans above clearly show the way that the old house was used to service the main block, and also how reception rooms were located on the first storey, with Dining, the smoking room and all things “sporting” occurring on the ground floor.

With 3 attic bedrooms in the old house, as well as a further 4 beds in the top of the castle, the plans clearly indicate staffing levels for the entire establishment.

Spiral Inspiration: Draft 0.2 #DunansCastle Plans from Robin Kent

The second version of the sketch plans are in, designed to feed into a sustainable future for Dunans. The idea is that the ground and first storeys are used for functions and conferences, and storeys three and four are given over to accommodation for those who wish to stay here. We think the spiral staircase at the centre of the design will be extraordinary, as it is also a light well, creating a shaft of illumination through the building.

… and this is only possible because of two changes in the brief since draft v0.1. Firstly, we *think* a second staircase is unnecessary – or at least that is the advice ABC is giving us. And secondly, the interior walls are going to have to be stripped away. This means that we free up 10s of cubic metres of space … and space is becoming evermore valuable as we work on the business plan.

So before we feedback, we’ll be looking at the business plan and cash flows and seeing whether the raw capacity numbers add up. The other component I am presently working on is the market for conferencing – finding comparables, taking advice and not being too bullish … which is difficult given the prospect of the spiral (at the same dimension of the main turret) …

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Dunans Rising, modelled beautifully!

On an evening when the light faded slowly into limpid shadow, and there was a stillness about Dunans which spoke of Summer rather than very recent Winter, I found four willing volunteers to model Dunans Rising tartan garments.

Actually, that’s not quite right. Sadie and TWTC’s intern Alex decided it was high-time we had some of our lovely tartan modelled properly in the grounds at Dunans. I was dragged out and had a thoroughly lovely time directing my four willing models … the results speak for themselves!

All the items are available at our online store.

Thank you Sadie, Alex, H & G

Dunans Steading: A deteriorating, neglected, historic building

We’re working very hard at Dunans, restoring and protecting Castle and Bridge – the castle is a B-listed structure, and the bridge is A-listed. If you have been following my posts you’ll know about our Conservation Plan for Dunans, and how we are moving from feasibility work, through design and investigatory works towards consent.

Published in April 2014, our Conservation Plan

Associated with the site there are several other historic structures. One is the C-listed Fletcher Mausoleum: this building is the only one remaining in Fletcher ownership – which is entirely appropriate. Another is the old steading to the North-east of the castle, known as Dunans Steading – a building sold apart from the Castle in 1999.

A 19th Century map showing spatial relation between bridge (top left), castle (bottom middle) and steading (top right)

Built at around the same time as the bridge was built it is believed the Steading was used as accommodation for the workforce who worked on the A-listed structure. Over the subsequent years this courtyard of buildings was utilised variously by the Fletchers as: mill for the timber needed to construct the castle; estate office, running the 40,000 acre estate; stables; hay barn; vehicle storage and general workshop space.

In the mid-2000s an application was submitted which the local authority insisted was accompanied by an application for Listed Building Consent. This Listed Building application was acknowledgement of the very particular place the building plays at Dunans. Not only does it stand in the historic policies of Dunans Castle, and has a direct functional purpose for the castle, but also the only access to it, is Dunans Bridge. This fact of access means that any use the owners of the Steadings make of the bridge has to be cognisant of the listed status of the bridge, the involvement of Historic Scotland and the Dunans Charitable Trust.

The other factor in this story, is the electricity supply to the castle. Originally of course, when both buildings were in the same ownership , the power supply could be routed to the steading and then onto the castle without problem. In fact, when it was installed Colonel Fletcher insisted the meters be sited at the Steading for ease of access by the electricity company, as well as ensuring the privacy of the family and the proximity of the working element of the estate for any queries. A sensible arrangement then.

However, when the Steading was split apart from the castle the meters weren’t similarly split – neither the electricity company or the then owners insisted on this, despite it being a condition of sale. This means then to read our bill – more of which in a subsequent post – I have to venture onto the neighbouring land, and in close proximity to fallen trees, smashed walls and very precarious gable ends pick my way to the meters, prise open the meter door and take the reading. A tri-monthly gauntlet.

The approach to the Steading!
The meters and the obstructions!

To record the state of things, and the danger to yours truly, this time I took some photos, and was inspired to write this post when I saw the results – a building in desperate need. The owners have refused us contact details (we believe they are based down in Kent), are not contactable through their agents, have not been onsite to our knowledge for over 2 years, will not talk to us, the owners of their sole access to their building. This is difficult when, as you’ll know, we are presently putting together an application to funders for of the restoration of the A-listed bridge – ie. £750K.

Work on the bridge, Summer 2014

What is particularly galling is that both the steading and the bridge need work now, and therefore we need to have a reasonable dialogue with the owners about their usage of the bridge to enable work on the Steading and what their contribution will be to the restoration of the bridge.

That conversation is needed because until we have it, forward movement on either project will prove very difficult.

Here’re some more images of the problems …



A Valentines Day Gift: Chocolates from ScottishLaird

Not sure we need to say much more, except that our sensational selection of six Scottish chocolates were made as a special commission for us by the excellent Caramiche Chocolatiers who can be found in Dunoon in a gorgeous haze of chocolateness … Chocolates helping restore a castle in Scotland – wonderful!

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There’s the Dunans Dram, the Castle Cranachan, Wild River Raspberry, Highland Honeybee, the Laird’s Retreat and the Lady’s Secret …

Now at our website, ScottishLaird.com, but hurry, we have only very limited stocks!


Landslip at Dunans: Ravine path closed, repairs imminent!

This winter has been very hard on the grounds at Dunans. We’ve seen so much intense rainfall that the paths, like last year, are a quagmire. Some relief was afforded by the freeze of last week, but the problem is deep-seated and is about what is happening to the climate overall.

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In early January the amount of rainfall led to a large landslip in the ravine, effectively blocking any access to the Laird’s Island. This map, which will be familiar to Lairds and Ladies shows the exact location in relation to Castle and Bridge.

Finding a way to bridge this gap in our path network might prove impossible, given the dynamic nature of the landscape – see the video of the river from Sunday for an idea of the type of flow we receive on an ordinary day …

IMG_2876We’re hopeful that some form of bridge or boardwalk will be possible, but before then we’ll have to wait for the ravineside to settle – and frankly, we are not sure when that will be. We are therefore also looking at alternative pathways, particularly to aid our tours… We’ll have more on this as we work out solutions in time for opening in late March in time for Easter!

Here’s the video:



Safety First at Dunans: Protecting our visitors and also the castle

Over the last year, as you’ll know if you have been following us, we’ve put in place a variety of surveys, plans and consultations which will help us realise the restoration of the castle. Over Christmas David Wright helped us take a small step further by installing a safety fence around the castle.

Now most safety fences are metal temporary things which have a habit of falling over at the drop of a hat – or weather bomb as the British press likes to call them. There’s a great example of how not to do it along Loch Fyne at St. Catherine’s.

Our safety consultant, Gillian Clark of GMO Consulting therefore recommended a post and rails fence, one that would look relatively benign in the context of the castle, and provide a proper visual and physical barrier to the building.

The results are great – the main photo above shows how the fencing is not particularly visually intrusive, and the ones below the detail of how we fenced and gated the front and side. You’ll notice we have left an area for the signage to remain, so our tours will remain safe behind the fence, but their view of the building won’t be obscured.

Deeply Wintry: Dunans clothed in snow

We went out at midday a couple of days ago for a walk. Felt like walking in a subterranean world. Extraordinary.

Topography at Dunans: Contour lines galore in this detailed examination of the landscape around the castle

GMGeomatics reported last week, and these are the results. I think you will agree that the detail here is astounding! I’ve included the legend to ensure you get all the detail. One thing I really like, is the movement from hot colours (high) to cool colours (low) – a nice intuitive visual touch.

The full pdf will be available on the Lairds and Ladies Archive.


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