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Work has finished on making Dunollie Castle ruin safe for years to come.
Phase three of the castle conservation work had been started in February but had to temporarily stop for lockdown. Now the work has been completed, visitors to Dunollie Museum, Castle & Grounds will be able to go inside the ruin safely for the first time since repairs started in 2013 – once Covid regulations also allow.
The repaired ruin now has the added bonus of visitors being able to go up to the first floor and then on up to a new viewing platform at second floor level.
The project saw repairs and pointing work carried out on the northwest and northeast walls of the ruin as well as secure a flight of ancient stairs hidden within the upper walls of the castle.
Because of the hard work of Gary Simpson and his team from Heritage Consolidation Ltd, there were only a few minor fixtures remaining to be repaired after lockdown began to ease, and the team was able to get back on site.
Also working on the project were Ian Campbell (CP Architects) as lead architect with his team of conservation architect Paul Barham from Barham Glen, Ben Adam from David Narro Conservation Engineers, Tommy McQuade from Morham & Brotchie and archaeologist Roddy Regan.
Sustainability and development manager Jane Issacson, who has co-ordinated the programme of consolidation since works began in 2013, said: ‘The team has been an absolute pleasure to work with and we are so delighted to have completed this third phase of work, meaning that the monument tower is now secure. There are still further phases which we hope to carry out in the future, but consolidating and repointing the third and fourth walls in this phase means the ruin is now safe for many, many years to come.’
The cost of these works was £224,000, with the overall cost of programme of consolidation coming totalling £974,000.
Without the backing of supporters from home and further away, these essential works would not have been possible.
A large chunk of funding for phase three came from a Historic Environment Scotland grant for £141,605.
The Dunollie team also fundraised more than £50,000 with support from the community and visitors, and with generous contributions from the Clan MacDougall Society of North America.
Alison McNab, chairperson of the Dunollie Preservation Trust said: ‘DPT is extremely grateful for the immense support shown from both the local and international community for this project.
‘Dunollie Castle is a landmark for our town and an extremely important visitor attraction. The castle is an integral part of the Dunollie visitor experience for both locals and visitors, and it’s hugely exciting to have more of the building open for viewing.’
As well as new accessibility for visitors in the castle ruin itself, DPT has also been working on fitting a handrail on the castle path. Careful consideration and planning was needed for that job because the castle mound is protected by scheduled monument consent, preventing ground leading up to the castle being disturbed.
An old Wych Elm recently taken down on the grounds of Dunollie will be turned into a barrier with a handrail and will feature the timeline of development as well as giving a nod to others who contributed to it over the years.
With visitor access uncertain for the rest of 2020, the Dunollie team has been
coming up with new ways for people to still enjoy the Castle ruin and it’s
fascinating history from near or far.
One way is through the new Kindred of Lorn project, launched during lockdown, inviting history enthusiasts, creatives, writers and anyone with an emotional
connection to the castle to create either a written or physical piece to go on display in an exhibition showcasing the castle’s heritage throughout the ages.
As well as the Kindred of Lorn project, DPT has commissioned a short Dunollie Castle film in collaboration with film maker Mikey McManus of MMCM Media which will have a documentary feel to it, taking viewers through the decades of the castle and the chiefs of the Clan MacDougall who once resided there.
Filming is anticipated to take place early October, with the film available to purchase from November.
To see more of what is happening at Dunollie, visit www.dunollie.org