Halfway between Dalwhinnie and Spean Bridge just after Loch Laggan there is a little turn off onto an unsignposted inconspicuous private road, travel along that road for 11 miles and you arrive at what must be one of Scotland’s hidden architectural gems, Corrour Lodge. Situated in a remote Glen at the head of Loch Ossian there proudly sits a modernist take on a Scottish Castle, a vision in gray granite and glass by Boston based architect Moshe Safdie, the centre piece of Corrour Estate it was built in 1999 to replace the original Estate Lodge which burnt down in 1942.
In 2005 I was engaged by Premier One Land Services to undertake a series of walling projects on the Estate which was in the process of implementing major renovations and improvements to the existing grounds and gardens. One of the first tasks I was given was the renovation of the large granite built Lily pond which sits in the garden in front of the Lodge. Established by Sir John Stirling Maxwell, one of the founders of the National Trust the gardens had deteriorated over the years but the structure was all there, and the clients were keen that it was restored to it’s former glory.
Picture of pool prior to renovation showing frost damage and bit of additional growth!
Technically reinstating the pool posed a few challenges, built originally in granite and mortar, we considered different methods of rebuilding it that would give the best possible results in terms of retaining water without leaks. The stone type and construction didn’t really lend themselves to having an internal secondary ‘liner’ to waterproof the pool, the granite block size was very large, heavy and jaggy the chances of not puncturing the liner seemed remote. We researched further and found a specialist waterproof lime based mortar called ‘Prompt’ – supplied by Masons Mortar, this proved to be the ideal material for our requirements. A characteristic of it is that it sets very fast, so only a bucket could be mixed at a time! this proved to be a labour of love for my assistant, Paul. Special care and attention had to be paid that cold joints were adequately keyed together to ensure a watertight joint.
There is something very special about taking down something that was built by hand many years ago, you feel a real affinity with the original builders, you know you are experiencing exactly the same issues as them, the sheer effort of moving and building the granite, the fatigue that leads to at the end of the day, but you also share their satisfaction of a job well done when you stand back & view your achievement in the works completion.
Before and after pictures only hint at the effort that goes into creating such a feature as it is difficult to see how heavy each block is and the way moving them about 8 hours a day leaves your body feeling arms ache and legs protest by going to jelly. Working in the Scottish Highlands also brings with it certain other ‘challenges’ the veritably annoying Scottish Midge. Lowland areas have midges that can be slightly irritating, the Highland midge is altogether a far more formidable beast. Swarming in their thousands they give you no respite and bite like bears! Ok probably not that bad but the results are the same allowing them to bite you is not to be encouraged. As the above photograph illustrates protective measures need to be employed to be able to work when they are around.
Following on from completing the pool I rebuilt various walls around the estate and created new ones in the area of the Gamekeepers Row and Stables.
New retaining wall in front of the Gamekeepers Cottages
New Granite Wall around Stable Block
Reinstated stone wall