The transformaton of Knock Old Castle.

We want your stay here to be a memorable one, and hope you have as much fun staying here as we had in restoring the old place.

When we bought Knock Castle (The Victorian looking one just up the hill from where you are now) in 2000 as our family home for ourselves and our three young children, the Old Castle was in the grounds but was a rather sad looking , overgrown and very derelict building.  Within months the dilapidated roof had fallen in, taking with it the remaining timber floors.

We spent the next few years restoring (the Victorian) Knock Castle as our family home.  It was certainly not derelict, but needed a massive amount of attention…exterminating dry rot, renewal of leadwork, reroofing, repointing, replacing worn stonework, rewiring, and of course redecoration.  We also moved the kitchen from the back of the house to the southern aspect with a pocket door into the sitting room, changing it from a rather austere Victorian house designed to be run by loads of servants (ah very bliss), into a warm and friendly family home. If you would like to have a look give us a shout and we would be delighted to show you round.

Once we had finished Knock Castle we turned our attention to the Old Castle. We could simply have let it crumble under our gaze, but that would have been a dereliction as owners of our caretaking role to history, and furthermore we felt that the building lent itself to an imaginative restoration that would capitalize on the superb views and setting.

We initiated discussions with an old friend and architect, Pat Lorimer of ARPL in Ayr who soon got Historic Scotland involved. It soon became obvious that they also shared our restoration enthusiasm, and, I’m glad to say did not want to see a historical replication but would rather have a structure and concept that united the 14th, 17th and 19th century existing structures with a 21st Century iteration. The new extension was to be unashamedly “modern” and not an (un?)educated guess as to what was there before.

This suited us down to the ground, and was the type of restoration that we originally had in mind.

In this we were also helped by the fact that there are no extant plans of any part of the building, and that furthermore there are a lot of inconsistencies particularly between the 17th and the 19th Century parts.  In effect Historic Scotland gave us carte blanche not to replicate but to originate, and even gave us permission to install the lookout tower at the top of the spiral staircase which certainly would not have been an original feature! We are so grateful to Historic Scotland for being so understanding and flexible, to be with us in our plans for a structure that was modern, original, and historic all at the same time.

Our Story

Many meetings and discussions later the plans were finalized and approved.  We moved to stage 2….the construction.

I at the time was working partly abroad so we appointed an excellent Project Manager, Andrew Rankin, who brought on board the main contractors, Fleming Masonry.

From the very start we were most impressed by not only Fleming’s work ethic, but also skill, particularly their carpenters and stone masons who produced superb quality work.

You will see from looking around, interesting quirky and imaginative stone and woodwork. OK the general concept was mine in the first place, but soon the Fleming boys ran with it and produced work with little supervision from me.  Only once did I tactfully have to suggest that something be changed.

It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good….shortly after we pressed the proceed button for the project there was a hurricane force wind in January 2012 that brought down over 100 trees around the policies. It was heartbreaking at the time, but gradually things fell in to place. I got a woodsman from Perthshire with a mobile tree planker to come over once we had moved the downed trees and he spent about 5 separate weeks milling planks. We went for the oaks first, but then realized that we had a superb asset in the grounds…21 dead and big elm trees that had died of Dutch Elm disease….so we did them next, before going on to mill a selection of horse chestnuts, ashes, limes, sweet chestnuts, yews and sycamores.  We gradually came to realise that in this way trees are capable of having a second life, of being born again!

We thus had abundant supplies of many kinds of wood and I asked the carpenters to use whatever they wanted, but with a particular request that I didn’t like straight lines and liked waney edges.

Apart from the oak framework of the two storey extension on the east side, all the timber in the building grew no more than 500 yards from where it is now used.  This is what would have happened in the original Castle. As you can see we have tried to use timber whenever we can…the beds are elm. Railings and towel rails etc are yew, panels are oak and elm, doors are mainly elm , but some are oak.

Knock Old Castle - Website by Sole Media