Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Kinloch Castle makes the news yet again

I’ve waffled about Kinloch Castle before, more than once it seems.

It’s funny how some stories/appeals only seem to need one or two appearances in the media, and there seems to be a virtual army lined up behind them, while others seem barely even to evoke a response, and when it does appear, it’s apparently hostile and negative.

As someone who lives in an area where many a fine mansion was built in the 19th century, and who has in more recent years learnt that nearly all of them have been razed and lost without trace, I see the loss of any examples that have survived so far, and might yet be saved, as worthwhile.

In my own case of the area between the River Clyde and the east end of Glasgow, I can’t believe just how many ‘Big Houses’ once lay in the area, built by wealthy merchants who favoured the river view, have been wiped from the land, leaving little or no trace to show they ever even existed.

The only way I know of their past existence is through finding illustrations/photographs of them in books giving accounts of the area.

The most recent, which I actually saw, was on the grounds of Belvedere Hospital and referred to as the Doctor’s House. It was systematically stripped then ultimately demolished and erased as a new housing estate was partly built in an attempt to profit from the dopey 2014 Commonwealth Shames. My guess is that the developer was out to make a quick buck from the mugs expected to come and witness this folly, and thought the houses could be let to them at vastly inflated rates. I also guess this never happened, and to this observer at least, work appeared to stop early, the site was abandoned with only about half the area cleared being built on, then the contractors, plant, and machinery disappeared. The remainder of the building site was landscaped, and is now just flat grassland.

The derelict roofless shell of Belvedere House eventually disappeared too.

(Sad, and embarrassing, to say, although I collected one or two pics of this over the years, I can’t lay hands on any of them today, so the pic that SHOULD here, isn’t. Sorry. I’ve searched and searched for them, but they seem to have disappeared too.)

While there are a few who are keen to preserve Kinloch Castle and see it as an asset in a remote place which has little to attract the tourist’s wallet (and lighten it for the benefit of the local community), if the comments after this media article is to be believed, the community “Don’t want none of that!”

Via: Campaigners plan bid to save Kinloch Castle from demolition

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle © Ashley Dace via geograph

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Allie is missing

News of another missing cat, this time in Shettleston near Killin Street.

At least that’s where I picked up this pic.

Not much I can add, but Sunday was only a couple of days ago, so this is a new appeal.

Allie Missing Cat

Allie Missing Cat

May 31, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Lost | , , | Leave a comment

SUPERCAT flies to the rescue of the Scottish wildcat

I almost missed this one, but it’s nice to see some more publicity appearing.


Cat owners across Scotland are being asked to help protect a highly endangered native species, the Scottish wildcat.

Experts estimate there are fewer than 300 wildcats left in the wild but Scottish Wildcat Action hopes that pet and farm cats will help save the day by becoming “Supercats.”

Scottish Wildcat Action is a national project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which aims to halt the decline of this native species by 2020. It is led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and is a partnership of 20 organisations. The Supercat campaign will launch on World Spay Day on 28 February with support from wildlife filmmaker, Gordon Buchanan, and using the hashtag #supercat.

To become a Supercat, a domestic cat needs to be micro-chipped, neutered and have up-to-date vaccinations. This helps wildcats by reducing the risks of cross-breeding and disease that are wiping out the last few wildcats in Scotland. Vaccinations, in particular, also help give Supercats themselves better protection from a range of threats.

News Release – Originally published by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Supercats are pet or farm cats that have been micro-chipped, neutered and have up-to-date vaccinations.


And in the media:

New campaign launched to save Scotland’s elusive wildcat

March 3, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Anyone know what this mystery object spotted in Largs is?

Anybody able to identify the object pictured below, spotted in Largs Mackerston Park near the shore  (courtesy of one of Tam Nugent’s excellent geographs)?

There is no identification or plaque apparent.

We’ve found a few other pics online, not showing the item itself, but which have caught it by chance.

These have established it was definitely there in the early 1960s, and given the age of the images used, was there at least in the 1950s, probably earlier, but we don’t have definite evidence for that so anything earlier is really just an assumption.

Largs Mystery Object

Largs Mystery Object

So far, we haven’t come up with it, or even anything similar, not online at least.

I can’t make to the Largs Museum, which would be worth a shot.

Any helpful/generous local care to ask in there for us, or even just point them towards this appeal for help?

March 2, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, photography | , , | 2 Comments

Could the Maid of the Loch sail again in 2018

Predictions that the paddle steamer Maid of the Loch could sail again in 2018 are probably the most realistic I have seen for the historic steamer since restoration began. Ambitious plans gave a number of earlier dates, but without being critical (just practical) I never expected them to be delivered, mainly due to the cost of the project (funded by donations, grants etc) and the huge amount of work required, which all has to be completed to standards set by outside certification bodies.

Thankfully, the volunteers have never given up, and despite the economic climate being less that favourable over the years, neither did the arrival of funds, even if they were slow.

It’s one I’d love to have had a hand it, but time, and the distance, just ruled it out for me when this restoration began.

Of the 2018 sailing date, this was said:

The summer of 2018 could see the last paddle steamer built in Britain sailing once more.

The Maid of the Loch has been out of use for 35 years.

But enthusiasts working towards a multi-million pound restoration of the vessel believe it could be cruising Loch Lomond again.

They are aiming to raise £1.7m by the autumn which, they believe, could release twice as much again in lottery funding.

If the fundraising drive over the spring and summer is successful, that would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash.

If all goes to plan, the Maid could be sailing by late summer next year.

Via Old Maid prepares for new lease of life

This promotional video from 2015 is described as having been key in securing backing from Heritage Lottery – it’s also a pretty good summary to, with some nice period footage from the Maid’s first life on the loch (probably from about time  I managed a trip, or maybe two, but I can’t remember).

It’s years (think of the word ‘decade’ and add some) since I last walked on the Maid’s deck and wandered down to the engine room and saw the paddles through the handy observation window provided, during a Doors Open Day opportunity.

Not that I would have forgotten that day, but things got more interesting after I parked in Glasgow, only to find my car battery (which had given no advance warning) suddenly decided to die, totally and completely. Let’s just say I had busy hour or two after that, since I was on my own.

February 18, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

The Scottish wildcat disaster train rolls on

WildcatWhile it’s gratifying to see publicity for the campaigns aimed at saving the Scottish wildcat from extinction, I still fear for its future if those involved cannot be made to form a consensus and work together, instead of forever being seen as being in dispute about who is right and who is wrong, amid accusations of doing harm rather than good with their plans.

There was news that wildcats had recently been caught on camera at two National Trust for Scotland sites in Aberdeenshire, near Drum Castle, and near Leith Hall.

More news described how new 1,500-square-mile conservation zone in Caithness was to be established, joining a similar area already set up in Ardnamurchan, with a long-term plan to see the two areas linked up to created a “truly national” safe area for the species.

Now, here’s the problem:

On 23 April 2016 I noted this (on the Cairngorms National Park Authority web site)…

Statement on behalf of Scottish Wildcat Action:

Eileen Stuart, head of policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), said: “We at Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) are once again dismayed at the latest statement produced by Wildcat Haven on 12 April 2016. We have a Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan which has been published and been developed by experts in their fields.

“Wildcat Haven’s actions misrepresent the progress we have made in the conservation of Scottish wildcat.  To be able to work with them, we need them to produce evidence and information relating to their activities‎.

Full statement can be read here: Statement on behalf of Scottish Wildcat Action

Then, on 23 August 2016 I noted this (in the news)…

Wildcat Haven says Scottish Wildcat Action is putting mothers and their newborns at risk.

A Scottish Government-backed wildcat protection scheme could be endangering the lives of newborn kittens, a conservation group has warned.

Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) aims to catch and neuter feral felines in Aberdeenshire to prevent them from breeding with wildcats, which are critically endangered.

Wildcat Haven says the group risks capturing new mothers and harming their young by laying traps during the breeding season.

Full statement can be read here: Wildcat Haven says Scottish Wildcat Action is putting mothers and their newborns at risk

Frankly, this behaviour from both sides (and I am not picking one or the other) is just not good enough.

I’m not even going to waste my time writing a new comment today, merely quote what I wrote about 2 year ago, since it seems to have just about the same relevance, and shows that little has improved regarding relations between these two warring factions:

It’s a while since I gave efforts to save the Scottish wildcat a mention, mainly because I couldn’t really see any good news to relate, and because there also seemed to be disagreement between those who should know better.

With extinction so close, that’s a truly sad and disappointing thing to have to note.

On 2 April 2015, we had Scottish wildcat captive breeding plan defended – BBC News

Sadly, this article reveals that rather than get together, various experts have taken up opposing views on whether it is better to create a haven which promotes safe living and breeding areas for wildcats, or to trap them and stock captive breeding programmes.

Surely the issue not for organisation to fight over which is right or wrong, as it should be obvious that a mix is needed. We already have animals in captivity that are breeding. We also need haven areas where animals can be protected and allowed to live and breed. Polarised groups at war only produce one thing – casualties!

I have nothing to add…

And no progress to note.

This recent video looks at not only the Scottish wildcat, but also touches on efforts being made to reintroduce the lynx:

Although it was good that he at least agreed to take part, it was actually sad to hear the farmer’s view on lynx, his dismissal of objective evidence in favour of hearsay and anecdotes, and beliefs influenced by the media and ignorance.

It reminded me of news coverage of a lynx escape from an English zoo last year:

“The animal should not be approached as it could become dangerous if alarmed or cornered.

“Officers have visited two local schools to offer safety advice and reassurance.

“All children at All Saints Primary School are not in school as they are away on a field trip.

“Police are also working with staff at Little Orchard Montessori School to make sure they are kept inside.

“Officers are also going house to house in the area to offer advice and are assisting with the search on the ground.

Via: Lynx on the loose in Devon after escaping from Dartmoor Zoo

After all that, Flaviu wandered around for about 3 weeks and… nothing happened.

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Poor old Kinloch Castle (it’s on the Isle of Rum)

Although I’ve never had the opportunity to visit (or am likely to), I’ve always like the look of Kinloch Castle.

The open arcade (wrongly referred to as a ‘loggia’ – which has a roof or covering) around the building gives it a wonderful appearance.

Dating from around 1897, wealthy English industrialist George Bullough clearly wanted something just a little better than a hovel – his new retreat included lighting, powered by its own hydro-electric scheme, central heating, double-glazed stained-glass windows, sophisticated showers, and even an early telephone system, plus a (now lost) conservatory with hummingbirds, peaches and grapes, and heated pools in the (walled) garden with… alligators and turtles. That garden also contained 250,000 tons of imported soil.

His father (James) had bought Isle of Rum 1886 for £35,000. Inheriting much of the family fortune he spent £15 million (a 1974 valuation) building the castle, employing some 300 craftsmen, and importing red sandstone quarried in Corrie, Arran.

It was eventually sold to Scottish Natural Heritage in 1957 for around £1 per acre, and featured in the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ series in 2003.

SNH has been paying to maintain the building and contents ever since, but even though it is A-listed, it could be demolished as the bill for repair and maintenance is said to have reached £20 million.

At that, I think I’m unlikely to write anything different from the last alarm call for Kinloch, so you should just read this post from 2013:

Whither Kinloch Castle (and many others)?

Kinloch Castle

<a title="< A > title : null
href :; href=”; data-popupalt-original-title=”null”>Kinloch Castle © Ashley Dace via geograph

Well, maybe there is a further comment, after I read this:

Kinloch Castle “faces demolition” due to repair bill cost

While the “shocked” ‘Kinloch Castle Friends Association ‘ may have their hearts in the right place, they also have to move into the real world.

There is no bottomless pit of funding for public bodies to dip into and ‘magic’ £20 million for a building that does not pay its way, or cannot provide some sort of operational contribution.

It’s all well and good to wave your hands and cry:

“Kinloch Castle is a truly magnificent place to visit and we simply do not accept that it is a write-off. It would be nothing short of a scandal if the castle were to be demolished, a scandalous loss of heritage.”


“I can’t believe that a heritage body would even consider demolishing such a beautiful, historic and unique building. It would be a huge mistake.”

But if you can’t also bring the funds needed to prevent it:

Earlier attempts to preserve the mansion, which were backed by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, have failed given the lack of public funding available.

Then your position may indeed be morally sound, but sadly practically flawed.


Perhaps another sad aspect we have nowadays is the aspect of liability, and the fear that SNH may find themselves being sued by someone who enters the abandoned and derelict castle one day, and is injured or even killed.

Even thought they may have entered without permission and wilfully ignored ‘NO ENTRY’ and ‘DANGER’ signs, chances are that SNH remain liable simply for leaving the castle there – and that threat is why they dare not simply abandon it and walk away, and warn that demolition is their option if they cannot fund repairs.

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Rubble – 6 month kitten – is missing from Onslow Drive Dennistoun

I see the odd missing pet poster stuck up while I wander around, sadly they are usually fairly tatty (ie old and weathered) and are also usually undated so there’s no way of telling how long they have been up.

This time was different, and these pleading for help to find ‘Rubble’ were recent, clean, and numerous. This family really made an effort.

Not much I can say, just hope she turn up safe and well (but more than a week had passed when I took these pics, and I’m a realist).

I used to live on the corner of Onslow Drive, and I still remember getting my first, and only, real cat scratch there.

I learned – DON’T startle a cat, even a gorgeous big fluff-ball. Their reactions are faster than yours – MUCH faster.

Lost Kitten Rubble 01

Rubble – Lost Kitten


Lost Kitten Rubble 02

Rubble – Lost Kitten

February 13, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, photography | , , , | 1 Comment

People’s Palace Viewing Gallery – Part 3… a question is raised

Paying attention to detail can pay off – and has provided a little surprise regarding the recently mentioned Viewing Gallery at the People’s Palace.

In this case, I came across an old postcard said to be from around 1910 (the Palace was built around 1898) which showed that the gallery was NOT part of the original building. I found another B&W pic, undated but from the same era and showing more of the Green, but even this small image of the building was enough to show the gallery was not present.

I made some enquiries, still to be answered, but here is a clip of the pic that sparked my curiosity about when the gallery was added:

People's Palace 1910 B&W detail

People’s Palace 1910 B&W detail


The good news is that while nobody knew the answer to my question, they did know who to ask.

I’ve now got a fairly robust list of document identifications relating to building and modification to the People’s Palace, courtesy of the Glasgow City Archives.

The downside of this is that the records are still paper so, in order to read them, a trip to the room at the back of the Mitchell Library is needed, since that’s where they live.

What can I say?

Might happen, might not.

They do advise an appointment, and I’m no longer ‘good’ at appointments, although since I already have the doc IDs, they also indicated that most would be available ‘on-demand’, with just a few needing advance warning to be made available.

Still, I do find it a little sad that there’s apparently nobody floating around that can just go “Oh yes, I remember that… it was done in…

Unless YOU know better.

February 13, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Plans to save Helensburgh’s Morar House may become reality

While I have to confess to only ever making it to Mackintosh’s famous Hill House in Helensburgh (yet have visited the town hundreds of times), I also have to admit to failing even to notice the house across the road, Morar House, also once known as Drumadoon.

More conventional than its famous neighbour, having last served as a nursing home, it has now been lying derelict for some years, but it now seems there is news of serious plans by developers All Saints Living for refurbishment and internal development of the property.

Obviously, I haven’t seen inside the place (and it not nearby), but I can only guess at the horrors that may have been exercised on it in order to make it compliant with the regulations for a nursing home. There will be a lot of work needed, and that does not take account of the effects of abandonment, and any vandalism that the property may have suffered.

Change of use from nursing homes to dwelling house and office was granted Aug 2000, followed by a number of planning applications:

2013: Full Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for extension and conversion of Morar House to form 11 flats, 1 mews with the erection of 1 dwellinghouse within the surrounding grounds are under consideration with Argyll and Bute Council ref: 12/02754/PP & 12/02755/LIB.

2014: Listed Building Consent for conversion, part demolition and extension of the former nursing home into 12 flats and 3 dwelling houses has been lodged with Argyll and Bute Council ref: 13/02904/LIB

2016: Listed Building Consent for subdivision, part demolition and conversion to form flats with associated new build is being sought ref: 16/00449/LIB.

Helensburgh Heritage writes that:

These will be explained at a drop-in briefing session hosted by the Chamber on Wednesday February 15 as they need help to give the William Leiper mansion, originally the home of the Hogarth shipping family, a new lease of life.

All Saints Living ask: “Do you have skills to contribute? Are you a builder, roofer, landscape gardener? Have you talent to offer in a new build in the grounds? Interior design perhaps? Plasterer, painter, joiner, builder’s merchant?”

Via Morar House Restoration Plan


All Saints appeal:

We are seeking local construction subcontractors and suppliers to help deliver our prestigious scheme, MORAR HOUSE, HELENSBURGH.

When: Wednesday 15th February – 15:00 – 19:00

Where: Helensburgh Parish Church Hall, Colquhoun Street G84 8UP.


Come along to the event or for more information, call Susan on 0191 211 4130 option 1 or email

Morar House Helensburgh

Morar House Helensburgh pic via All Saints web appeal

See also Buildings at Risk Register: Morar House, 17, Colquhoun Street Upper, Helensburgh

February 12, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Tollcross Winter Gardens – Shame of the 2014 Commonwealth Games ‘Lasting Legacy’

I used to enjoy cutting through Tollcross Park, and the opportunity to drop into the Tollcross Winter Gardens.

But, thanks to the ‘Lasting Legacy’ of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, this has been denied me since at least February 2013 (I cannot be exact as I stopped walking around the area before this date, as the preparation for the ‘Shames’ was trashing the area, making it anything but a pleasure to walk through), and was the first time I saw how the Winter Gardens had themselves been trashed, while the existing sports centre nearby was having countless thousands poured into it for no good reason, and big red shed was being built along the road, at Parkhead. Seriously, all that money poured down the drain for a few spoilt runners and jumpers, while a real gem like the Winter Gardens was trashed, and no money spent on it as part of the so-called ‘Legacy’.

Things were no better in 2015: Tollcross Winter Gardens – a ‘Lasting Legacy’ to betrayal

Another 2 years, its 2017, and I’m basically just repeating the same sorry story.

I got there too late for this, or even to give it a little publicity, and since I will not tough the toxic f a c e b o o k, I can’t tell if there is any progress (can’t find any more online), but this sign was up at various places around the park and derelict glasshouse:

Friend of Tollcross Park first meet sign

Friend of Tollcross Park first meeting sign

It will be interesting to see if any interest can be raised after what is clearly a blatant betrayal of those who once cared and put in the effort – I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if even those who care choose not to be made fools of again.

Over 17 years ago, this happened:

The Winter Garden in Tollcross Park were last refurbished in the period 1999/2000, having lain derelict for at least a decade, and at risk of being lost at worst, or left to rot at best.

However, funding to the value of £1.7 million rescued the glasshouse then, and it also gained an adjacent Visitor Centre, café, and play area.

I have my doubts if it will be repeated, unless grants and Lottery funding can be found, and maybe more importantly, some way of taking it out of the hands of those who allowed the damage to be done.

It’s really hard to believe I was able to walk into these gardens prior to 2013, give thanks to the good folk who had been able to have them restored AND add a visitor centre (there are also play area which have been lost within the grounds), only to see it all ruined, derelict, and abandoned.


According to the Building at Risk Register for Scotland:

The glasshouses are understood to have been damaged during storms in Dec 2010/ Jan 2011 and have been closed since.

Tollcross Conservatory, Tollcross Park, Tollcross

I had no idea the closure went that far back. Smells like a make-believe excuse to me, after all, why close the Visitor Centre too? It was the part that sold stuff and made money, and was usually full of parents and screaming kids. I guess it operated at a loss, so when the glasshouse closed, its days were numbered.


Can’t see why money was not made available and throw at for the 2014 Shames, as a tourist attraction, or was considered to be an attraction only for the ‘wrong sort’ of tourist, and not those who were wanted for the Shames?

Tollcross Winter Gardens January 2017

Tollcross Winter Gardens January 2017


Tollcross Winter Gardens Side January 2017

Tollcross Winter Gardens Side January 2017


Tollcross Winter Gardens Visitor Centre January 2017

Tollcross Winter Gardens Visitor Centre January 2017


February 11, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, photography | , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: