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2 Nov 2023

Hard hat tours at Craigievar Castle

Turning Craigievar Castle Pink Again


7 voices: Annie Robertson (Building Surveyor); James Henderson (Operations Manager); 3 visitors; Will Napier (Adams Napier Partnership); Steven Harper (Harper & Allan Masonry)

(birds cawing)

Welcome to Craigievar today for our hard hat tour, and we're focusing on plasterwork today, so it should be a really great day.
We're getting to go inside the castle as well as up on the scaffold to have a look at the work we've been doing.

Craigievar Castle is a tower house, which is the type of castle that we built in Scotland that predominated for about 300 years.
And there's been a building on the site of Craigievar where it now stands, certainly since the late 1500s, when a family called the Mortimer family undertook to build a tower house.
And that was quite an ambition for them, and it's said to have bankrupted them.
So in 1610, a chap called William Forbes came along, and he had earned the nickname 'Danzig Willie' through his trade as a merchant trader, where he made his money.
And he undertook to develop Craigievar in a sort of Renaissance style, and he's responsible for the castle as we see it today.

The National Trust for Scotland acquired Craigievar in the 1960s, and over the decades that followed, there began to be concern about the environmental conditions inside the castle.
It was quite damp, and there was mould appearing on some of the collections, but of most concern was the condition of the plaster ceilings inside, which were onto timber.
In the early 2000s, the Trust undertook what was quite a pioneering project at the time and that was to address that dampness by removing the cement harling that had been applied to the outside of the building; harling being that protective coating over the stone.
Because cement just isn't the right material to use for traditional building, they replaced that with a lime-based mix, which is much more appropriate.
It's permeable, so it does allow the passage of moisture through it.

So what we're doing now is building on the success of that early project.
We've dealt with the material issues.
The conditions inside the castle are now perfect, as I said, but what we've realised over the last couple of years, is that there are still some detailing problems around the building, and that's just really how the building deals with water, in particular rainfall, which is something for us to consider with climate change predictions of increased, more intense periods of rainfall.
So we're just making really discreet changes that you wouldn't notice from the ground, to just better help the building shed the water away from the walls and protect that harling.

The Natural Trust for Scotland is a conservation charity, building conservation, but also nature conservation.
This project at Craigievar Castle, is massively important for the National Trust for Scotland.
We want to start engaging with some of our future members, the kids, the schools.
I guess one of the most exciting pieces of work we've done with the schools was actually getting them to come up with a fake myth for the property.
There is some carved decorative stonework on the castle that we wanted to use as our starter for ten.
One of our team went in and did some creative writing, with one of the local schools here, and ultimately came up with a narrative around this myth of Craigievar that we then had professionally illustrated into a comic book strip that you can see on the Heras fencing as the hoarding.

The hard hat tours, we baked into the project from the outset as a really key way for us to get the message out about what we, National Trust for Scotland, are doing with money, with largely the members' money, and some of the donors as well.
So we decided we would put on these outreach days and let the public get up close and personal with the project.
Where else will you get the opportunity to get up this close to a building?
So have the opportunity to go up the scaffold, meet the team, the specialists, understand the detailed way that we're conserving this building, I think is a unique, potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Visitor 1
The hard hat tour was a wonderful idea.
When I was told, to go on a tour like this, I just thought, 'Wow, it is just great to be able to do that.'
When would you get the occasion, the opportunity to see a building being renovated?
And a building such as this one, so iconic.
Everybody loves Craigievar.
I mean, it's the pink castle. Wonderful.

Visitor 2
Yeah, it's certainly great to be here on the hard hat tour today.
It's a sunny day, and it's gonna be great to come back and see it when it's all finished in a few months' time.

Visitor 3
The best bit about today so far has been seeing the plaster being mixed and seeing, probably actually the passion of the people running it as well has been really good and interesting to hear from everyone.

Being given the opportunity to work at Craigievar Castle, which has the finest collection of 17th-century plasterwork in Scotland, was just too good an opportunity to miss.
And whilst the work that we've been doing is mainly external, that is going to benefit the plasterwork internally, because if you can provide better conditions, it will last longer.
I've worked at places like Kellie Castle, which has similar plasterwork, and being able to work on a property of a similar period but with even more plasterwork is a dream come true for somebody with my background.

The project has allowed us to have two or three apprentices on site most of the time, and it's critical that we train up the next generation of tradespeople for passing down the knowledge and skills that we've developed over the last, for myself anyway, for the last 25 years.
This castle, it's a pretty famous castle: it's the pink castle.
So for a lot of them, it's quite a satisfying job knowing that you've worked on this castle and you've helped maintain it for generations to come afterwards as well.
So they take a great deal of pride in what they're doing, and it's a quite a bit of an achievement to say, 'I've worked on Craigievar Castle and responsible for basically making it look pink again!'

As a charity, we rely on funding from a variety of different sources, and donating to a project like this was going to be critical for us to be able to actually deliver what we want to deliver.
We launched a campaign at the start of the project called Pink Again.
And the success of the project was borne out to me personally when we received a donation from America based on what they've seen of this project from across the pond.
Craigievar Castle is known as 'The Fairytale Castle'.
The conservation work we're doing here will keep that fairytale alive.

(bird cawing)

Over the summer we ran a series of special hard hat tours, offering people the chance to see our conservation work at Craigievar Castle in action.

The tours were a huge success, focusing on a number of different elements of the 18-month conservation project including repairing the plasterwork, fixing the harling, adding the limewash and protecting the resident wildlife.

Once all the repairs are complete, we will finish the works by covering the castle walls with a full coat of tinted limewash, to ensure that Craigievar becomes pink again.

We are very grateful for the support received for this project from all the donors who have contributed to our ‘Pink Again’ appeal, and we are very excited to share the castle with visitors again from spring 2024.

Help us protect and restore Craigievar’s historic pink walls

Pink Again

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