Highland Lodge, Scotland

A remote, traditional Scottish sporting estate in Ross-shire with a rich history dating back to the 16th Century had suffered neglect for several decades and all of its buildings were in a poor state of repair. In 1994 new owners began a programme of sympathetic restoration and renovation of existing granite buildings together with the construction of a new house to be their private home.

Graham Goldthorpe’s advice was sought in the early stages of the project to assist with the selection of stone, its design and general feasibility, albeit the client already had a firm idea on the overall aesthetic required, in terms of stone finish and detailing. It was recommended that Stewart Design, a specialist masonry drafting company, should be engaged to prepare a full set of masonry working drawings, including fixing details, cutting schedules and templates, essential for production of the stonework. A buff coloured yorkstone was selected and the scheme involved a total of 600 cubic metres (1475 tonnes) of finished stone.

The stone itself forms a 140mm thick non-loadbearing outer leaf to a traditional cavity wall construction with an extremely stout 450mm thick inner wall in solid blockwork and reinforced concrete with thermal insulation to meet building regulation requirements. The general walls are in boldly pitched / rock faced stone, manufacture in 450-750mm random lengths and in non-standard 307mm high courses. Unusually this was specified with 5mm ashlar joints necessitating a special production process whereby the stone was primary sawn (slabbed) a few millimetres oversize and then milled down to the required course height, achieving the +/- 1.5mm tolerance required. Comers were formed in 350mm bed ‘L’ shaped quoins, in the same finish, but with 30mm wide drafted margins to give added definition and clean vertical arrises. The stone was bedded and pointed in traditional lime mortar with careful on-site batching to ensure a consistent colour and texture throughout the work.

Other areas of the building are constructed in contrasting fine rubbed ashlar, as 75mm thick hand- set cladding, in 420mm courses, both straight and circular, restrained by proprietary stainless steel fixings. Prominently featured around the perimeter of the building is a large section moulded plinth and mid-level string course, together with a striking circular mullioned bay window, a beautiful stained glass transomed mullioned window, a detailed ashlar parapet, one piece gable footstones, weathered and moulded copings and traditionally designed apex stones to each gable, complemented by 350mm diameter decorative ball finials.

On behalf of the client, Graham Goldthorpe organised and implemented a bespoke quality control procedure to ensure all stone was manufactured in accordance with the stringent quality parameters agreed for the project. The sample panel was part of the finished building and this acted as a control on site for future supplies and finished work.

In terms of logistics, the site is situated deep in the highlands of Scotland and the final 8 or 9 miles, or so, is served by a single track road, and considering the project involved over 70 No. loads, deliveries needed to be phased over a 2 year period to suit the construction programme. And this also involved an expert wagon driver who did much more than deliver the stone! It was a credit to all concerned that there were no mishaps or damaged stones in transit, which was quite a feat.

During production several apprentice masons were able to cut their teeth on a series of moulded and detailed stones. Many completed their apprenticeships during the supply period for this project and the nature and complexity of the stonework gave them a valuable insight into traditional masonry.

Cost planning was of particular importance to the client and a detailed bill of quantities was prepared for all the stonework required, with supply prices being agreed well in advance of manufacture. This allowed the stone costs to be properly monitored and controlled throughout the project, with variations priced pro-rata similar items. As a result, there was transparency from the start, with competitively priced stone coming within the expected overall budget cost.

This project required careful planning, organising an implementation to achieve the high quality standards required by the client, which necessitated the use of a skilled and experienced team of ‘highland’ stonemasons who fully understood the client’s brief and what was, and what wasn’t, acceptable. Their endeavours produced a stunning example of traditional masonry built to the highest standards possible. Throughout the project there were good levels of communication and trust built up by people having the required vision and expertise to effectively undertake the work – with everything happening as it was promised to happen.