The challenges facing rural estates and landowners have never been more acute and Martin Cassels who project managed the extensive work to convert Barnbougle Castle explains what was involved.

Barnbougle Castle

Barnbougle Castle, which sits on the shores of the Firth of Forth, has just undergone a discreet but thorough refit, and the category A listed castle opened in May 2019 as an exclusive use venue for weddings and corporate events.

A Successful Project

The success of a project that involves extensive intervention in the fabric, and which must both conserve and preserve, can often be judged by initial reactions from the first visitors.

There is no greater compliment than this comment received at Barnbougle:

“My goodness, this is amazing. Has anything actually changed?”

Succeeding in converting a building such as Barnbougle for event use, but preserving its character and features, having been unused for 90 years, is no mean feat.

The Refit

Lord Rosebery and his family embarked on the project in 2016 and committed significant investment. The initial phase involved exterior repairs. Over many decades, water ingress from roof leaks, defective pointing and gutters had damaged many areas internally, staining historic wallpaper and panelling. The collection of over 10,000 books was beginning to suffer from the dampness, with mould growing on books, artwork and furniture, and there was a real risk of more serious problems occurring.

Having dealt with the external envelope, the more involved internal phase of work began in 2018, after extensive preparation. With wiring from the 1950s and no working heating, the scope included full rewiring and re-plumbing, a new electric heating system and installation of a lift, commercial kitchen and toilets to cater for the events. This was very challenging given the history and requirements of modern building regulations when endeavouring to make a historic building compliant.

One crucial decision was to install a sprinkler system for fire suppression. Not only did this help with technical compliance, but it also gives comfort that in the event of fire, the valuable contents and building will have a much reduced risk of damage. With the devastating fires recently at the Glasgow School of Art and Notre-dame Cathedral in Paris, focus on fire prevention and suppression has never been so critical.

Although many of the building’s features are original, a beautiful “faux library” partitioned room creates a new cloakroom and toilets, together with a “ladies’ boudoir” on the ground floor. The book titles were carefully chosen by Lady Jane Kaplan, daughter of Lord Rosebery, who oversaw every detail of the project.

The original marble bath, formerly filled by sea water, was preserved and returned to full working order, along with the magnificent bookcases, panelling and original light fittings. The end result is a unique and stunning castle within 20 minutes of both Edinburgh city centre and Edinburgh airport, yet with a feeling of remoteness and exclusivity.

The first events were held in May.

Key Relationships

Jonathan Burrow, factor of Rosebery Estates, said:

The relationship with the Galbraith building surveying team goes back several years when they were appointed by the estate to assist the management team. Since then, they have become integral in helping to steer significant projects, most notably the renovation of Barnbougle Castle.

We took the decision to renovate Barnbougle and reopen it as an exclusive hire venue in 2017 as it is one of the finest buildings on the Dalmeny Estate, and one of Scotland’s most outstanding heritage venues. 

Galbraith was the obvious choice for the role. They have fielded a range of professionals to execute what has transpired to be a somewhat complex project. Building, ground work and planning challenges arose along the way due to the castle’s historical significance with the property dating back to the 13th century. The infrastructure has been sympathetically modernised with original artefacts and features preserved.

Barnbougle is an outstanding heritage property. The end result is much admired and a testament to the team’s expertise. We’re thrilled it’s open once again and now being enjoyed by many.

The building surveying and commercial teams at Galbraith are working with the estate on a number of similar projects, many of which seek to utilise redundant or underused former agricultural or commercial buildings. At the Southern end of the estate, we are currently project managing another property destined for events, which incorporates luxury short term letting accommodation as well. this will provide a different offering, with a more rustic feel, while other developments focus on diversification such as children’s nurseries, storage and office space.

The challenges facing rural estates in the current economic and political client are considerable, but with strategic, professional and innovative thinking, assets can be maximised without losing their traditional feel. Galbraith’s diverse commercial, rural and building surveying teams are better placed than most of their competitors to offer this type of co-ordinated and complete advice to clients.