Situated on an upstanding mass of partly columnar basalt, approximately 30 feet in height above the shores of Loch Dunvegan, the Castle is undergoing a phased re-invigoration.
The first phase, undertaken by main contractors D Blake & Co for MacLeod Estates, saw works complete to nine flat roofs and one pitched slate roof, and has involved the construction of a stair scaffold and a temporary roof to provide the contractors with some protection from the elements. Architects on the project were Simpson and Brown.
Therefore lifting the failed copper and lead roofing and replacing it with new well detailed lead work was a crucial part of the recent works, as well as cladding the inside of the parapets to prevent water seepage through the cracked render in these areas.
The removal of the old copper roofing in the area over the castle’s 17th century Piper’s Gallery revealed beautiful stonework, which has been restored and left uncovered.
Advancing on the major roof restoration project, the MacLeod Estate has recently secured additional grant aid funding from Historic Scotland towards the cost of overhauling and repairing all the castle’s windows which are in very poor condition.
Work has already started and is scheduled for completion in July 2011. It has also commissioned a local stonemason to undertake repairs to the copingstones of the main entrance and the 18th century relief carving of the coat of arms above Dunvegan’s portico entrance.
Due to the harshness of the climate, the rain and salt from the seawater had actually worn holes in the glazing of the windows, which was last re-fitted in the 1960s. Another element of the scheme involves the replacement of the castle’s rusty old cast iron down pipes with maintenance-free lead ones.
The second phase of restoration works to the castle’s electrics, plumbing and heating systems are planned for the winter of 2013/14.
The castle’s interior will then be re-decorated throughout with plans for exciting new areas of the building to be opened up to visitors. This in turn will reinforce its aim of safeguarding and promoting Dunvegan Castle’s vital role as a major tourist attraction and one of the largest private sector employers in what has historically been an economically fragile area.
Currently the team at the MacLeod Estate is working hard to build on the significant improvements to the visitor facilities over the last two years.
The scope of works range from a new main gate ticket office and a complete refit of the castle shop and the MacLeod Table Cafe’s WC to a new Garden Museum and Victorian gazebo in the Walled Garden. A restored Edwardian flower room and a new exhibition of the roof restoration will also form part of the impressive new visitor attractions.
Hugh MacLeod, MacLeod Estate Director, said: “We are thrilled that this Herculean project is ahead of schedule and on budget. The quality of the lead work is second to none.
“In order to further protect Dunvegan Castle’s fabric and to render it truly wind and watertight, the estate has asked Simpson & Brown to overhaul and repair all the castle windows, especially those on the West sea-facing elevation which are in very poor condition.”
Dunvegan Castle is one of the greatest and most renowned among Hebridean strongholds, and the only one which has been continuously occupied by the same family, during a period of nearly eight centuries.
The massive exterior comprises six separate buildings, with five being open to the public and the sixth housing the administrative and domestic offices of the present Chief and his family.
Architecturally it is a structure of great importance, containing work of at least 10 building periods. The Castle has a unified design with Victorian dummy pepper-pots and defensive battlements running the whole length of the roof line.
This ‘romantic restoration’ was carried out by the 25th Chief between 1840 and 1850 to the plans of Robert Brown of Edinburgh. Underneath this outer skin however, there remains a series of complete buildings, each of a different date, which, following the recent works, should soon be shown off to visitors to maximum potnetial.