Bell Ingram Design plays key role in £1.6m restoration project

After 18 months under lock and key, Braemar Castle opened its doors in late summer to reveal a startling transformation.

The structure has been restored to its former glory with its turrets, towers and curtain wall rendered in a traditional oatmeal shade, while the castle’s treasured collection has been returned to a now wind and watertight interior.

This soft opening marks a key moment for Braemar Community Ltd., whose volunteers have carefully unpacked the Castle’s treasured items, from the smallest pieces of cutlery to giant four-poster beds.

Bell Ingram Design has been at the heart of the £1.6 million project to restore the A-Listed landmark to its former glory, with conservation architect Susan Burness heading up the team alongside main contractor Harper & Allen Masonry.

Susan Burness said: “The restoration work is a key milestone in the wider plans to transform Braemar Castle and its Estate into a cultural destination and top-class visitor attraction that compliments the amazing landscape and helps promote Braemar as a learning and engagement hub.

“It is an extraordinary building with a fascinating history, and it’s been an honour to work with Braemar Community Ltd. to deliver such an important community project.

“I believe that the work we have done will future proof the building and allow the Trust to preserve the furnishings and artworks which call Braemar Castle home.”

Most of the work was focussed on the external fabric of the building, which included structural repair, and the re-harling and lime-washing of exterior masonry and the curtain wall in an oatmeal colour which was based on a small sample of historic lime wash which was uncovered when the cement harl was removed.

Susan continued: “The restored building reflects the original colour, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the Castle. Essential interior works, including electrical upgrade, window repairs and drainage upgrade, now provide a more appropriate environment for the collections stopping any further detrimental effects and providing a more pleasant environment for visitors.”

Fog House

Earlier this year, Bell Ingram volunteers spent three days picking heather on the Deeside hillside at Invercauld Estate.

Their job was to collect 80-bales of heather for professional thatcher Brian Wilson to use as material to re-roof a small decorative garden feature – known as the Fog House – in the grounds of Braemar Castle.

The volunteering days were the brainchild of Iain Cram, Director of Bell Ingram Design, who is part of the team restoring the Castle.

Iain said: “The restoration of the Fog House marks an important milestone in the ongoing transformation of Braemar Castle and its grounds to ensure its long-term protection for the enjoyment of visitors from all over the world.

“We are proud to do our part to ensure the survival of this important building for future generations and our partnership with Braemar Community Ltd. has also given our employees a great opportunity to volunteer and make a positive difference to the community.

“Volunteering days like this are a fantastic boost to our conservation and outdoor learning efforts as well as promoting a sense of wellbeing and connection between our staff and the places where they work.”

About Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle, located at the Haughs of Dee, has been an army barracks, family home and visitor attraction since it was built in 1628 by John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar as his Highland hunting lodge.

It was a target in the first Jacobite uprising in 1689 and torched by John Farquharson of Inverey. Following the Battle of Culloden, the castle was used as a garrison for Hanoverian soldiers to suppress any lingering Jacobite support.

The castle was gifted to Braemar Community Trust Ltd. on a 50-year lease by owner Captain Alywne Farquharson, 16th Laird of Invercauld and Chief of Clan Farquharson, in 2007. Since then, it has been managed by the Braemar Community Ltd., its interior kept just as it looked when the laird was in residence.

The community group, supported by the help of an anonymous benefactor, helped secure the contents of the castle and the volunteers raised half a million pounds, locally and from generous private donors, which bolstered major funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland to make the Castle wind and watertight and safeguard its future.

Raising The Standard Project

The £1.6m restoration is part of the castle’s Raising the Standard Project, which has been supported by The Prince’s Foundation, who acted as advisors to Braemar Community Ltd throughout the project.

As well as conserving the fabric, developing the landscaping and work to make the castle more accessible, the project aims to innovatively re-interpret the castle’s story and introduce new opportunities for learning and engagement, and to elevate the castle’s visitor experience creating to a top-class attraction.

Initiatives include a new website, online booking and presence on the Bloomberg Connects app alongside more than 200 places of interest around the world, placing Braemar Castle on the international radar. Together with this sits a full programme of activities including outreach within the wider area and events to be held at the castle which engage the community with the heritage on its doorstep.

The castle’s rebirth has also received royal backing: The Prince’s Foundation has had an advisory role throughout the project development, while a young student linked to its Building Craft Programme has been hands-on removing the old cement harling and applying traditional lime replacement.

Find out more at www.raisingthestandard.org.uk

Our people

Iain Cram

Iain Cram

Architect
Design
Tel: 01738 621 121

About: Iain is Partner in charge of Bell Ingram Design. His main role is working with clients on projects from the initial concept, through site searches, funding challenges and statutory consents. He's an experienced and talented architect with a long track record, working on a diverse range of projects from small scale residential through to large public, commercial, residential and tourism builds. Interests: Architecture, Building Surveying, Trustee of the Scottish Lime Centre, a highly respected historic building skills training centre.

Get in touch

We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

    Keeping History Alive: Scottish Lime Centre is Preserving Our Traditional Buildings 

    As head of Bell Ingram Design, architect Iain Cram wears a number of different hats, but none so interesting as his role as a Trustee of the Scottish Lime Centre Trust.

    The Scottish Lime Centre Trust (SLCT) was established in 1994 in response to the growing concern over a skills’ shortage in the field of traditional building technology.

    And over the last three decades, this not-for-profit organisation has promoted the appropriate repair of traditional buildings, and the conservation and development of associated building traditions, crafts and skills through training and education.

    The importance of preserving traditional building skills came into sharp focus recently for Bell Ingram Design who are key members of the team tasked with the restoration of A-Listed Braemar Castle in Aberdeenshire.

    Iain explains: “Braemar Castle is a perfect example of how vision and craftmanship can give a rundown landmark a new lease of life as a visitor attraction and community resource.

    “By using the traditional lime mortar process in the conservation process we are recognising the importance of Scotland’s older built environment, not just because of its heritage and cultural value, but because of the need for environmental and economic sustainability.”

    Through their work on other buildings of high significance – including the Marshall Monument in Perth and the Brechin Townscape Initiative – Iain and his BID team have built up a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that face these places as our needs and expectations evolve through time.

    Iain continues: “I believe that architects accredited in conservation have an essential part to play in safeguarding our built heritage and organisations like SLCT are an essential support to integrating heritage skills in to ‘mainstream’ construction training.”

    Based in Charlestown in Fife, the catalyst for the creation of the Scottish Lime Centre was rising concern over the effects of using ordinary Portland cement on historic masonry buildings.

    Rosamond Artis MRICS IHBC RICS, Director of the Scottish Lime Centre Trust, explains: “Over the past 150 years or so, since the introduction of cement, the lime industry in the UK has dwindled and the cement industry boomed with cement technology developing to produce harder and stronger material. Don’t get us wrong, we think modern cement is a great product, it should just never go anywhere near a historic masonry structure!

    “The increased use of cement in the construction industry resulted in the loss of knowledge and skills required to correctly and appropriately specify and use lime mortars. Through the later part of last century we increasingly saw the damage that was being caused by overly hard cement mortars, but the products, knowledge and skills were not available to transition back to the use of lime mortars, and this is where we come in.

    “In 1994 our organisation was established to bridge this gap and to bring back the understanding and skill required to successfully use lime mortars. Our remit has developed over the years and still specialists in lime mortar use and technology, we have a broader scope of providing advice, guidance and training relating to all aspects of traditional building technology.”

    The Scottish Lime Centre Trust runs practical courses aimed at all levels covering a wide range of traditional materials and techniques, designed to enhance craft skills and awareness. These are aimed at tradespeople and craftspeople; building supervisors and site agents; architects, engineers and surveyors; conservation officers; homeowners; students; voluntary conservation groups; estate managers; and those who just want to learn new skills.

    The organisation also promotes Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through lectures, seminars, demonstrations and practical courses for architects, surveyors, conservation officers and students.

    Its building advisory service offers professional and technical consultancy and advice provided directly to building owners or their appointed architect/surveyor.

    The organisation even offers a Materials Analysis Service and a Sands & Aggregates Database which holds records of currently available sands and aggregates enabling the appropriate specification for use in lime mortars and ability to match both the appearance and physical properties of a historic mortar.

    More information online at www.scotlime.org

    Our people

    Iain Cram

    Iain Cram

    Architect
    Design
    Tel: 01738 621 121

    About: Iain is Partner in charge of Bell Ingram Design. His main role is working with clients on projects from the initial concept, through site searches, funding challenges and statutory consents. He's an experienced and talented architect with a long track record, working on a diverse range of projects from small scale residential through to large public, commercial, residential and tourism builds. Interests: Architecture, Building Surveying, Trustee of the Scottish Lime Centre, a highly respected historic building skills training centre.

    Get in touch

    We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

      Article posted on 12/09/2022

      Bell Ingram heads project team for Braemar Castle restoration 

      Bell Ingram Design’s conservation architect Susan Burness is heading up the team tasked with restoring A-listed Braemar Castle and its grounds.

      Work had now started on the project following confirmation of funding support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland. The main contractor is Harper & Allen Masonry.

      Braemar Castle, located at the Haughs of Dee, has been an army barracks, family home and visitor attraction since it was built in 1628 by John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar as his Highland hunting lodge.

      It was a target in the first Jacobite uprising in 1689 and torched by John Farquharson of Inverey. Following the Battle of Culloden, the castle was used as a garrison for Hanoverian soldiers to suppress any lingering Jacobite support.

      It was gifted to Braemar Community Trust on a 50-year lease by owner Captain Alywne Farquharson, 16th Laird of Invercauld and Chief of Clan Farquharson, in 2007. Since then, it has been managed by the Braemar Community Ltd. group whose vision is to conserve the castle as a visitor attraction and community resource for schools, charities and individuals.

      Susan Burness said: “Bell Ingram are delighted to have been appointed by Braemar Community Ltd. to improve the fabric and infrastructure of this important building. It is a great opportunity to secure the castle for future generations.”

      The repair and conservation of the Castle exterior and Curtain Wall will include structural repair, re-harling and lime-washing. Further research during the development phase will confirm the specific shade.

      Susan continued. “The restored building will reflect the original colour, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the Castle. Essential interior works, including electrical upgrade, window repairs and drainage upgrade, will provide a more appropriate environment for the collections averting any further detrimental effects to collections conditions and providing a more pleasant environment for visitors.”

      Elsewhere, the Castle setting will be enhanced with sightlines cleared, landscape management and re-planting in the Grounds and Curtain Wall areas.

      Susan added: “The visitor arrival experience will be improved with all visitors entering through the Grounds gate, which will be widened to enhance accessibility, and reaching the Castle via an accessible all-weather pathway. The improved Castle experience will also see the removal of the existing cabin and the introduction of a modest extension providing accessible visitor toilets and improved space for introductory interpretation and a tour group assembly point.

      “Development of the Grounds experience also encompass the refurbishment of the timber fog house to feature a timeline on the accessible path depicting key points in the Castle’s story linking with the interpretive focus of the Castle, nature trail through the grounds and re-instated garden experience.”

      If you are interested in finding out more about what Bell Ingram Design can bring to your conservation project, get in touch by calling 01738 621 121 or emailing design@bellingram.co.uk with us today.

      Article posted on 13/06/2022

      Thinking of buying a croft? It’s important to do your homework and consult an expert

      TV programmes like Amanda Owen’s ‘Our Yorkshire Farm’ and Ben Fogle’s ‘New Lives in the Wild’ have tapped into a national obsession with self-sufficient lifestyles ‘off-grid’ living.

      So much so that even during lockdown, farm and crofting properties are generating a high level of enquiries as soon as they come onto the market.

      But for those seeking the rural idyll, does the romantic notion of swapping city life for a sheep farm in the Dales or living in a white-washed croft house on a west coast bay live up to the reality?

      Bell Ingram’s resident crofting expert Ian Blois says: “It can do, but it’s not always straightforward and prospective crofters need to be aware of a number of points when buying a property which could be restricted by crofting legislation.”

      He continues: “Increased interest in crofting properties during the Covid lockdown has been prompted partly by lower property prices and partly by a genuine consideration of escaping to the country and leaving behind the stresses of city living. Working from home is now a reality for many people and with good broadband, connectivity to a business or employment anywhere in the world is now possible amidst the freedom and slower lifestyle of the Highlands.

      Based in Bell Ingram’s Beauly office, Ian has worked with Estate Agency colleagues advising potential crofters for over ten years and reckons that a working knowledge of crofting legislation almost comes as standard if you are a rural professional living and working in the Highlands.

      He adds: “While the rules and regulations around crofting aren’t particularly complicated, like most things of this nature there are certainly a few pitfalls that could trap the unwary, and it’s sensible to do your homework and consult an expert.”

      Here’s a number of points you might want to consider if you are thinking of buying a croft:

      What is a croft?

      Crofting is a system of landholding which is unique to Scotland and is an integral part of life in the Highlands & Islands. A croft is legally any small land holding, which is registered as a croft by the Crofting Commisson and therefore subject to crofting legislation. The croft may or may not have a house or farm buildings associated with it and there is no size limit. Currently Bell Ingram have a number of crofts for sale ranging from a 1.6acre croft near Oban to 127 acres of farmland near Lairg in Sutherland.

      Where are crofts located?

      There are 21,186 crofts entered on the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts (ROC) of which 15,137 are tenanted and the remainder are owned. These crofts are located within the traditional Crofting Counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland, or in one of the newly designated crofting areas – Arran, Bute, Greater and Little Cumbrae, Moray.

      How much does it cost to buy a croft?

      This depends of a number of factors, including location, land quality and whether the sale includes a croft house. For example, a croft (with a croft house) in a desirable area like the Black Isle with good transport links to Inverness is likely to fetch a higher price than a property without a croft house in a more remote location.

      What is the legal position if I buy a croft?

      There are two possible scenarios when you buy a croft and these should be apparent in the sales particulars. The croft may be classed as owner-occupied, in which case you would be buying the land and the crofting tenancy, which is the right to farm the land. Or, in some cases, the ownership of the land is not part of the sale and you would be buying the assignation or tenancy of the croft, which is just the right to farm the land.

      What are my rights and responsibilities if I buy a croft?

      Owning a croft is not the same as owning an ordinary regular home or farm because the use of the land is regulated by the Crofting Acts. Whether you become an owner-occupier or just the tenant, in both cases you must comply with certain duties imposed on you by the crofting legislation. These are:

      #1 A duty to be a resident on, or within 32 kilometres of, the croft.

      #2 A duty not to misuse or neglect the croft.

      #3 A duty to cultivate and maintain the croft or to put it to another purposeful use.

      If any of these rules are breached, the Crofting Commission have the statutory powers to terminate the tenancy and allocate the croft to someone considered to be more suitable. This applies even if you own the croft, so it is important that prospective buyers understand the commitment they are making.

      Can I buy a croft house without any land?

      A “croft” house is not necessarily a croft. If a house is being sold without land, it is unlikely to be subject to crofting legislation which applies mainly to land. In this case, normal property laws apply and you can use it as a second home or let it out as a holiday cottage.

      If a registered croft is being sold with a house, the house and garden has often been de-crofted which means that while the land remains under crofting tenure, the house is no longer subject to crofting legislation. This can be important if the buyer needs a mortgage as lenders will only offer financial assistance if the house is free of crofting legislation.

      Making an Offer

      If you are serious about buying a croft, speak to the selling agent and your solicitor to make sure you are fully aware of what it will mean to become a crofter. It is usual to make a formal offer subject to getting approval from the Crofting Commission. This means that if your offer is accepted, you will then make an application to the Crofting Commission to be approved as the tenant of the property. This is likely to be successful as long as you intend to live permanently on the croft or at least within 19 miles of it and to actively farm the land. Once approved, your offer to buy will be completed.

      Still Confused?

      If you have found you dream house on an internet search and you find that crofting is mentioned, please do not be discouraged. Just give us ring at either our Beauly or Oban office and someone will be pleased to answer all your questions. It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

      Useful links:

      Crofting Commission www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk

      Citizen’s Advice www.citizensadvice.org.uk

      Shelter Scotland www.scotland.shelter.org.uk

      Our people

      Ian Blois

      Ian Blois

      Consultant
      Rural Land Management
      Tel: 01463 717 799

      About: Ian is a highly experienced Land Agent whose remit includes negotiating temporary access agreements and compensation claims for private clients, giving farm advice and submitting grant applications, and providing land agency services to utility companies and other government bodies. Ian is Bell Ingram's resident crofting expert. Interests: Pipelines & Utilities, Private Estate Management, Sporting Management, Rural Land Management.

      Get in touch

      We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

        Article posted on 01/11/2021

        5 top tips if you are plotting your dream move to the country

        Bell Ingram Design Architect Murray Fleming shares his 5 top tips for things to consider when plot hunting:

        Readers of a certain vintage will remember 1970s’ sitcom The Good Life which chronicled the adventures of Tom (Richard Briars) and Barbara (Felicity Kendal) Good as they embraced a life of self-sufficiency in their home in Surbiton.

        And this desire to create a ‘good life’ has been one of the enduring property trends of the last 50 years with the current pandemic only increasing the demand for house plots as many people reassess their priorities in favour of building a better quality of life in the countryside.

        So, if you are thinking of swapping city living for the rural idyll, Bell Ingram Design Architect Murray Fleming shares his 5 top tips for things to consider when plot hunting:

        1. Where is the sun?

        One of the great benefits of designing a new house on your own plot of ground is the opportunity to take advantage of the sun as it moves through the day and to simply enjoy the pleasures of a light filled house. Whether it be the morning sun in the kitchen or a view of the setting sun from the living room, good house design begins with designing around the sun ‘path’.

        However it is not a simple as north facing site = bad and south facing = good, it is much more a matter of the surrounding topography and how that affects how the sun reaches the site. A north facing site may actually benefit from sun throughout the day if there are no obstructions and a south facing site may not see any sun if its path is obstructed by trees or a large hill immediate to the south.

        Try and visit the site at different times of the day to find out when the sun first hits the plot and when it dips below the horizon at the end of the day. Then, taking account of the time of year, an assessment can be made of how this will vary during the year, as the sun path from winter to summer varies enormously at our northern latitudes.

        1. Where are the utilities?

        Not so glamourous, however as many sites in the countryside are sold with no utilities, an assessment of the cost of bringing in water and electricity, and dealing with sewage is crucial to understanding the ‘real’ cost of the project.

        A site that seems like a good buy at first can quickly become a money pit if the cost of running in each of the utilities is exceptional due to long distances for water/electricity, or poor ground conditions for a sewage system soakaway. Watch out too if no water supply is available and the only option is an expensive and uncertain water ‘borehole’.

        1. Where are the underground services?

        While bringing services a long way into a site can be expensive, dealing with services already on site, but which are in the ‘wrong’ place, can be equally problematic, whether it be a water main running across the plot (which can be the case even in an apparently remote location) or overhead electricity or BT lines.

        There are several companies that can supply this information for a fee, however local knowledge is equally invaluable, and a short chat with a long-time neighbour of the site could save you thousands!

        1. Where are there planning conditions?

        Most house sites will be sold with either ‘Planning in Principle’ or full ‘Detail Approval’ and both are likely to have ‘conditions’ attached which you will be required to comply with. These can vary from a requirement to carry out protected species surveys to archaeological ‘watching briefs’ or simply forming a new vehicular entrance from the public road to meet the current local council standards.

        While many conditions may have no cost implications, the above examples could prove expensive and so making a careful assessment of the potential costs and indeed risks of any planning conditions is an essential part of plot assessment.

        1. Where is the love?

        Buying a plot of land and designing our own house is a dream for many of us, and it’s not as complicated as it might first appear! But, before you make that life changing purchase, ask yourself: “Do I love this site? For better, for worse? For richer for poorer? ‘Til de … well hopefully not that part!” And if the answer is YES!, come and speak to us at Bell Ingram Design and we can help make your dream come true.

        Start planning your dream home by checking out the plots for sale on our website www.bellingram.co.uk or contacting Murray Fleming by ringing our Beauly office.

        Our people

        Murray Fleming

        Murray Fleming

        Architect
        Senior Associate
        Tel: 01463 717 799

        About: As Senior Architect based in Bell Ingram’s Beauly office, Murray is responsible for the company's architectural services covering the Highlands and Islands. He has extensive design and project management experience in a wide range of building sectors, including residential, commercial, public and healthcare. Interests: Full architectural design service, Planning advice & submissions, Feasibility studies, Condition surveys, Building warrant advice & submissions, Administration of construction contracts.

        Get in touch

        We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

          Article posted on 01/11/2021