We have lectern! New signage at the castle for the multitudes of Lairds and Ladies this summer!

By Dixon-Spain


The first of our new signs is now in place. Its a kind of lectern made out of treated softwood, so its neither too heavy to shift, or too light to run away with. We also wanted something we could swap signs in and out of as the project progressed. I think Mike has done us proud realising the design.

Later this week we’ll post photos of the new Bridge sign.

Here’s the original design post btw.

Initial Enquiry into the Heritage Lottery Fund for Dunans Bridge Today!

By Dixon-Spain


… and they’ll be getting back to us in 10 days. As soon as they feedback we’ll report here. In the meantime here’s the detail of what we said:

The project will focus on the restoration and celebration of the A-listed, Thomas Telford-designed, Dunans Bridge, which reaches its bicentenary in 2015. This is a nationally important, rubble-built, triple gothic-arched bridge which is in need of urgent restoration. As the only publically accessible A-listed structure in South-west Cowal it is an essential heritage structure to maintain – not least because it also provides access to the B-listed Dunans Castle. These two buildings provide the core of a designed landscape which has been open to the public since 2006, and at which guided tours have been conducted since 2010. These tours, in which the bridge plays a central role, are focussed upon the heritage of the site, its relationship with Clans Fletcher, MacGregor, Campbell and Lamont, the Jacobite rebellion, the vision of Clan Fletcher when designing the site, and the commissioning of Thomas Telford to build the bridge. In its present unrestored state the bridge, the castle and grounds attract 5,000 people a year, with tours happening between April-October inclusive Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The project will ensure continued access to the site for these visitors, events and celebrations around the bridge’s restoration as well as its bicentenary.

This project will:

restore Dunans Bridge, ensuring its future. The programme will replace the carriageway of the bridge, repoint the three gothic arches, strip vegetation from the structure and restore the undermined stanchions.This work will maintain a nationally important A-listed structure and maintain access to the B-listed Dunans Castle.

engage a varied local, national and international audience. The restoration works will provide an opportunity to extend and improve the skillsets of individuals and groups who are already involved in restoration of historic structures professionally or as volunteers – we will include this element of the project in our tendering process for contractors. During the restoration we will ensure the local community, local schools, youth organisations and history societies are able to access the structure as it is repaired, and at different stages, both by visiting directly and monitoring progress online via webcam, social media and our website. The virtual element of this access is particularly important because of a large international community of interest associated with the site. It is also our intention to integrate with the curriculum for excellence, and in particular build upon the work of the All Our Stories Project at Kilmodan Primary School “Glen of the Red River”. This will add an important thread to the history of the area.

celebrate the centenary of the bridge. On restoration we will be celebrating both the completion of the work and the bridge’s 200th anniversary in several ways. We will create a longterm legacy with the publication of a Bridge Restoration Book, rather like the recently published ‘Conservation Plan for Dunans’. We will hold a Bridge celebration day, which will include a performance of a specially commissioned site specific play about the bridge, the interment of a time capsule created from contributions from the children who have been involved in the restoration, and of course a Grand Opening Ceremony. Thereafter the play will be performed during festivals including Cowalfest, the Cowal Way Day and any appropriate events which are planned at the castle. Further events will also be planned during the project and held as appropriate.
We expect to begin in early 2015 with restoration works complete by August 2015, and consequent celebrations to occur in the remaining period until October 2015.

Cause for Celebration! Application to Historic Scotland completed and submitted

By Dixon-Spain

It took a week to put into the right words, a second to submit – on Friday at around 3pm – but this application (and the one to HLF which I will be working on this week) starts a process that restores the bridge by October next year and enables the opening of the castle by late 2018.

It feels onerous on the one hand, but fantastic to be finally moving on the other!

Below is the edited text of the application.

Dunans Bridge will be 200 years old next year and the Dunans Charitable Trust wishes to restore the A-listed, Thomas Telford-designed structure. The Dunans Conservation Plan, produced by Robin Kent Architecture and Conservation (attached), identifies the bridge as the first element of an ongoing restoration programme for the site. The bridge is in need of urgent repair at an overall cost of £898,000, with a grant-funded component of £842,000. The repairs will include repointing the three arches, stabilising the surrounding banks, repair of the carriageway, repair of the stonework and removal of foliage as detailed both in the Conservation Plan and the Initial Structural Appraisal by David Narro Associates.

This project will ensure the bridge remains standing and used both for access purposes to the B-listed Dunans Castle, and also as a visitor attraction in and of itself. The structure’s merit will be enhanced simply by returning it to its original form in the year of its bicentenary. As the attached documentation indicates the works we are applying for funding for are essential to save and then maintain this structure.

The work in view for the bridge will ensure that its longevity is assured and we anticipate only maintenance works within the first 5 years of the project being completed. However, the work on the bridge will enable the restoration of the B-listed Dunans Castle as detailed in the attached Conservation Plan and this work will be implemented as a consequence of the work on the bridge that we applying funding for.

The bridge gives access to Dunans Castle and grounds. It provides a significant heritage value as a visitor attraction, drawing visitors daily. As one of only two A-listed structures in the area, and the only A-listed structure accessible to the public, its presence is a significant draw to the community and has a direct economic impact on the local tourism economy.

The community already benefits from the presence of the bridge. The bridge’s significance as having been (possibly) designed by Telford, its status as the highest bridge in Argyll and its proximity and relationship with Dunans Castle make it, along with the associated castle, one of only three significant heritage attractions in South-west Cowal. Over the last six years over 10,000 visitors from all over the world have visited the bridge and castle for tours of the structures. In each case these visitors have contributed to the local tourism economy, and have been particularly welcomed by the 8-10 accommodation providers in the local villages of Glendaruel and Colintraive. To maximise the profile of the bridge and this benefit to the local community, during the works each stage will be documented in video, photos and via blog, we will engage with local primary schools from Cowal, Bute, Kintyre and the isle of Arran, providing visits and projects for the pupils (in line with the Curriculum for Excellence) as well as ensuring the local Archaeology group associated with the community-owned forest at Stronafian can access the expertise being applied to the bridge. With the completion of the project we will be organising several events around the bridge’s bicentenary, including a Bridge completion party, an outdoor theatre piece about the bridge and interpretation around the whole project. We have already published a book of the Conservation Plan, and will do the same for the restoration of the bridge, and this, like the use of social media during the restoration works, will increase the engagement both of locals, and also of our wider international community of interest. We have letters of support from the Colintraive and Glendaruel Community Council, and the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust which speak to their support of the project to restore bridge and castle.

The bridge is part of a £5-6M investment in Dunans, the castle, the bridge and the grounds, enabled in part by the Charitable Trust through its lease of the bridge. The repair and renovation of the bridge is the first stage in this project, an essential one if the ruined castle is to be restored. Therefore we can with confidence say that after this initial investment is made in the bridge, the project to restore castle will be able to secure the £3.5-£4.5M finance needed. Once both heritage structures have been restored we anticipate that from the present employment of 5 people full-time onsite we will employ between 10 and 15 individuals at Dunans, with economic activity for a myriad of local contractors (events, weddings, conferences, cleaning, catering, marquees etc). The risk of course is that if the bridge isn’t repaired the present employment and visitor numbers will be lost. The Conservation Plan is also supported by the local Community Council and our Development Trust, both of whom see the economic value of what is happening at Dunans. In this way, the project at hand is the foundation for a significant investment locally and ties in with Argyll and Bute Council’s single outcome agreement which prioritises economic regeneration and tourism.

We have two potential audiences for voluntary work, skills acquisition and, professional advancement. The first is an active Archaeology Group in the local community, whose efforts at present are focussed around conserving a chambered cairn in Stronafian Forest. Active conservation and restoration such as that which we are proposing for the bridge is an ideal opportunity to cascade skills and knowledge in project management, archaeology, survey and interpretation to this group, and to others like it across south-west Cowal, in particular bodies like the Strachur and District Local History Society. Given the large international community of interest around the project, we also anticipate strong interest from this worldwide group along the same lines. We will also liaise and encourage our contractors, via the terms of the tendering process we will work within, that the work on the bridge will offer opportunities for skills development among their and other workforces as well as locally among crafts people who work with rubble-built structures.

We presently provide signage around the bridge to introduce the structure and its context to walkers and our visitors. There is significant education benefit in the structure, its renovation and the bicentenary. We anticipate providing interpretation during the works as well as after the works, ensuring every stage is recorded – not only for immediate consumption online and onsite but in the form of a book similar to the one we are publishing for the Conservation Plan Consultation. We will also be inviting local Primary schools (including Kilmodan, Strachur and Tighnabruaich) to visit at appropriate times to understand this work. Furthermore, once the work is complete we will hold a series of celebratory events for locals and visitors alike. Of course once the castle is restored too, there will be permanent exhibitions on the restoration of bridge and castle. We will of course also tie-in with ongoing successful local heritage endeavours like the recent Heritage Lottery Fund project, Glen of the Red River, the first stage of which was completed by the Kilmodan Primary School and which offers an online resource which the work on the bridge can contribute to (see www.glenoftheredriver.com).

Members of the public are able to access the bridge on foot from the main road freely. In 2006 the Trust obtained grant funding from SFGS and Highland Birchwoods to create and recover pathways around the policies, and part of this was the creation of a flattened area to the side of the bridge to enable the full glory of the structure to be visible. Our view is that Dunans Bridge will be a highly visible, highly visitable structure and a boon to the local tourist economy. We also intend to enable virtual access through webcam and video.

The Joy of Tours at Dunans on the #MayDay #BankHoliday

By Dixon-Spain


Both Colin and myself took tours today. I chose the easier option and took Scot AnSgeulaiche’s Jamie and Claire Tour based on the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon. What a lovely bunch of folks from Canada and the US (pictured above taking photos of the newly annointed Lady Sue on her square foot). We did the full circuit including looking through the trees, over the ravine, at the C-listed Fletcher Mausoleum.

Colin on the other hand, was tasked with showing a 32-man tour around – they all definitely had a ball – and there are a bunch of photos on Facebook taken by Jean Donaldson, our fab in-house photographer. The shot below, just shows how many folks that is. A really good day at Dunans!

It is such a lovely day I decided to take some panoramas of our A-listed Bridge

By Dixon-Spain


… to celebrate the refresh of the Dunans Charitable Trust website at Dunans.org. We’ve shed some dead wood, organised the information more clearly and changed the header photo to the main feature shot here. However, the portrait of the bridge (right) is my favourite showing the main arch, adorned as it is, with self-seeded foliage.

Later: having posted the images above I then had a moment waiting for the children to return from school. I used the time to take a couple of different panoramas, the second of which I think shows in a very succinct way the difficulties anyone would face accessing Dunans in anything bigger than a 7.5 tonne truck.


Progress on the Bridge! We’re devising applications to Historic Scotland and Heritage Lottery Fund this week to effect its repair and restoration.

By Dixon-Spain


The next stage in our progress to restoring Dunans, notwithstanding the ongoing consultation on our Conservation Plan, is putting in place the funds for the repair of the bridge. Today I have been working on the application to Historic Scotland on behalf of the Dunans Charitable Trust. I’ve now worked through the entire online form (excerpt attached to this post) and I am beginning the process of making the application to the Heritage Lottery Fund while I await feedback. Necessarily this is a detailed process, but the work that Robin Kent and David Narro associates have put in on the Conservation Plan and Indicative Costings make the whole process much less onerous than I thought it would be.

Once we have finalised the application we’ll be publishing the submitted form (less confidential material) on the Dunans Charitable Trust website here.

Making progress at #DunansCastle with our architect, surveyor and H&S consultant

By Dixon-Spain


Much discussion over the next stage of the work pending the consultation responses from Historic Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council, the Community Council, Development Trust and of course our Lairds and Ladies. During the afternoon we discussed the possible reasons for the round tops to the eight stanchions on the bridge (which you see in every photo of the structure). Robin, our architect, and author of the Conservation Plan (available here) thinks that they might have been designed to have obelisks or turrets atop. He made this quick, very rough sketch to outline the idea and I had to share it with you. Of course the reality is that it is unlikely they were ever built, and if they were they were taken down for good reason. More research may reveal the real intent.

After 5 hours of working through our plans we called it a day, or at least that was the intention – instead, Sadie launched into TWTC work and I, for my sins, went off for a three hour meeting with the Development Trust. It really doesn’t stop!