1st December, 2022

Linking past to present

It may seem like an easy decision to condemn a crooked, weather-worn, outbuilding when upgrading a Highland country estate. But to do so may miss the point. Often these vernacular buildings are worth saving. Sometimes, within their structure and materials you can learn more about the history of a place than you could from the pages of a book. And sometimes they are the critical piece in a project that links the past to the present.

When carrying out an extensive restoration renovation of a loch-side Highland castle our team was tasked with saving an old open sided barn which dated back to early Victorian times. For over 150 years the timber structure had housed a sawmill, producing timber to be used around the estate. Indeed, this humble building played a pivotal part in the 1839 development and updating of the castle - when it was probably erected.

Upon close inspection the sawmill was found to be in a serious state of disrepair. Our skilled carpenters built an internal frame on new treated oak beams to provide a usable working area, and to stabilise the building. Leaking and draughty, the original cladding required replacing and, when found to have originally been clad with offcuts from logs from which fine planks for the castle had been milled, they were faithfully replaced with the same technique, using offcuts from a local sawmill.

Now the sawmill is set to weather the next 100 hundred years, boasting the structural integrity of a modern construct. Yet, through sensitive restoration, the original character of this charming building is undiminished. And that character has caught the project architect’s eye too, with the design for an adjacent new Biomass Building taking cues from the rustic sawmill, echoing the douglas fir pillars with bark intact, cladding and corrugated iron roof.

To realise the architect’s vision for the Biomass building, our skilled craftsmen used fine local materials - such as stone from a nearby quarry and large timber posts that were felled and cut just 20m from the new structure - to create a building that blends perfectly with its surroundings. It achieves this by mirroring its humble neighbour, without which this corner of the estate would be a lesser place.