Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Inland boatyard found in Westburn

I find some odd things lying around – this time, dead boats in Westburn.

The last time I saw anything like this was in Shettleston, where somebody with a bit of fenced off spare ground stores assorted ruined cars, but on one occasion picked up half-a-dozen or so various small speedboats. Not fast ones, just small craft with cabins, and better than rowing boats. They disappeared after a year or two.

Those boats were ‘Gin Palaces’ compared to the ones I spotted in the back lot of factory in Westburn.

These have definitely seen better days, and aren’t likely to be snapped up by anyone out for a quick bargain.

I actually thought it was just one boat there, but as I walked further along the road and got a better view, realised that two boats had been dumped there.

I doubt these are going to be restored any day soon, or see water – other than rain – again.

Westburn Derelict Boats

Westburn Derelict Boats


July 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, photography | , , | 1 Comment

One for the Spitfire fans as another is saved

For such a small aviation museum run by volunteers, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum punches above its weight, and is an impressive performer.

It’s a long time since I’ve been there, but I have watched its steady progress online.

Slightly irritatingly, I learned that before I made my visit I had regularly spent days within sight of the museum, but did not realise it was there. This was in the days when I used to (try to) fly RC helicopters, and attended annual fly-ins held on the old airfield runway.

Oh well…

The museum’s most recent success is the restoration of a World War II Spitfire that saw service in the Battle of Britain, but crashed during a training flight from Ayr in 1941, killing the Czech pilot.

The plane was finally salvaged from of Loch Doon in 1982, following a four-year search by divers after the museum’s founders commissioned the salvage project in 1977, not long after the museum opened.

This article covers the recovery operation: The Loch Doon Spitfire is Found

Since then, it has taken 35 years of work to restore the aircraft’s bodywork – although an expert (from Yorkshire) was able to restore the fuselage, it seems ill-health prevented further work, but the museum was able to raise fund to buy wings, and allow this part of the work to be completed.

However, there remains much to be done – while the exterior has been largely completed, the interior remains as the next stage of restoration.

Via: Loch Doon Spitfire goes on display in Dumfries

Longer story appeared later: Spitfire recovered from Loch Doon put on display

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540 – Pic via BBC News

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

How about talking Rothesay UP rather than DOWN?

Over the years, and I mean in decades, not just single years, one would have to be bordering on delusional or blind not to have seen how Rothesay has become neglected, BUT saying that alone would selectively ignore the simple fact that ALL the towns which enjoyed prosperity as Clyde resorts over the years suffered the same downturn in their fortunes once the cheap package holiday took hold around the 1970s, and Brits deserted their local holiday venues.

It was simply cheaper to jet off abroad than holiday at home. And truth be told that wasn’t really the fault of the Clyde (and other) resort towns, but a consequence of a massive new package holiday industry backed by smart operators and the money to invest in it and make it pay for them. Sell cheap, sell lots, collect a small margin, but collect lots of it.

But there’s been a quiet revolution on the Clyde, and even before I had to give up regular visits to many of the former resort towns, they were being slowly turned around at the start of the millennium, and the process has been continuous.

Too slow for some, I still get the sense of a derogatory tone when some writers just chant the same mantra of doom and gloom as has been heard since the 1970s, but that is unfair.

Change really has to be slow to be effective. Think of the stupid fad diets pushed by ‘celebrities’ – their purpose is to make celebrities rich by having stupid people eat their ‘magic food’. Rapid change in a place is the same. Both leave the buyer unsatisfied, are ineffective, and their only effect is to empty pockets.

Rothesay has seen such a long-term initiative: The Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI)

This 5 year plan concluded in 2016, with numerous sites and buildings throughout the town benefiting.

I’m lucky enough to access to pics of the changes made in the town, but it was tough to pick just a couple to provide a representative ‘Before and After’ example.

In the end, I went for the facade behind the car park on Guildford Square, NOT because of the infilling of the long standing gap site there (that was easy), but for the view either side, where the existing buildings have been retained and restored:

Guildford Square in 2013

Guildford Square in 2013


Guildford Square in 2015

Guildford Square in 2015

Don’t get me wrong on this, I’m not saying it’s perfect – I’m the type that would have dearly loved to see the chequered original of ‘Maison Gina’ restored rather than swept away (I even miss the gap, it was an old friend), but… I’m also a realist.

See this gallery for a look at many of those projects while underway:

Zak’s Gallery: Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative

It’s not my place or intent to ‘Name and Shame’, but it can be disappointing/depressing to read some commenters derogatory remarks about how slow this project was (in their opinions) and some even criticised the 5% contribution asked of those who wanted the THI to assist with their property.

Still others may be found who still sneer and call ‘failure’ as they point at the building which may still be referred to as ‘eyesores’, as if the THI was supposed to fix ALL the town’s structural problems.

They won’t be happy…

In fact, they’ll probably be hopping mad, as a new initiative aims to target “prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.”

Rothesay is to share in a £6.2 million fund which will help to upgrade the seafront.

The Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding which has been announced, will see £500,000 of funding by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for essential repairs and improvements to buildings on Rothesay’s seafront.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said: “We’ve seen how successful this approach can be in previous schemes across the UK, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results for Rothesay.”

The aim of Rothesay CARS will be to repair prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.


CARS specifically targets conservation areas with disadvantages that make it difficult to attract investment in sustainable regeneration.

The scheme assists these areas through channelling funding towards opportunities to enhance sustainable economic growth and help support projects that develop an area’s sense of place.

The scheme is open to Local and National Park Authorities, community groups and other third sector organisations delivering multi-funded projects.

Funding can be utilised for a number of purposes, from priority repairs and small grants to homeowners and retailers, to providing traditional craft training opportunities.

Via ‘The Buteman’: Rothesay seafront to get £500k boost

I really don’t care about the naysayers any more, and just ignore them in passing now, and enjoy the various improvements made to the town and its facilities. They can go wallow in the pit of their own self-imposed misery – the rest of us will move on.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Finally, birthplace of Peter Pan officially classified as ‘rescued’

I made a mistake 6 years ago, not a bad mistake, but something that did make me think I had made a mistake.

I made my first post about the restoration of Moat Brae House.

Since then, I’ve made a further 6 posts (not including this one) about the house, a derelict Georgian townhouse with garden which is said to have inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan.

I’m not even a Peter Pan fan, and was actually attracted by the sad tale of the derelict, yet famous house which dates back at least a further 5 years. Even then, it was in the news for being abandoned and vandalised, with nobody seemingly willing or able to rescue it, and demolition becoming a distinct possibility.

After my first post I started to spot more detailed mentions, and started to write about them, and then began to think I had caught a monster by the tail, as having started to mention it whenever some advance was made in the rescue, I found myself worrying about missing the next one, and having an incomplete story.

However, sense eventually prevailed, and once it had a famous sponsor – Joanna Lumley – I decided to stop worrying and let it run its course until something major happened, and it did:

A campaign spearheaded by actress Joanna Lumley to secure the future of Moat Brae House in Dumfries has announced that £5.3 million is in place to turn it into a centre for children’s literature and storytelling.

The trust behind the initiative has also announced that the new attraction, expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors a year, is due to open in 2018. That is three years later than planned when details a proposed overhaul were first unveiled in 2011, when the project had a £3.5m price tag.

The B-listed building, which was designed by Dumfriesshire architect Walter Newall and dates back to 1823, has been made wind and watertight, and had a new roof installed since being taken over by the trust.

The restoration project, which will get under way 
within the next few months,will see the creation of permanent and temporary exhibitions, a children’s library, education workshops, a cafe and a shop.

Via: ‘Birthplace of Peter Pan’ saved for nation after £5.3m appeal

So, while it’s far from over, the project has moved on from one of rescue to one of eventual completion.

Thank goodness!

Oh well, here we go again…

Now all I have to worry about is spotting news of the opening.

Moat Brae

Moat Brae © Copyright Darrin Antrobus

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment

The Maid of the Loch enters final phase of restoration

After more than 20 years of effort, it looks as if the Maid of the Loch will be sailing once again, maybe even as early as 2018.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has offered support for the £5.5 million project.

Phil Preston, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC), said: “This has been a 20 year cause, during which we have raised and reinvested over £1.9 million and committed over 80,000 hours to restoring the ship.

“With this promise of around £3.8 million from HLF, we now need to do the hard work of raising the other £1.7 million. I guess it’s now full steam ahead.”

This is a Round One Pass, meaning that the charity can prepare all the necessary technical surveys, drawings, and specifications for the ship’s rebuild.

Stuart McMillan MSP attended the celebrations and said: “I am delighted that the Maid campaign has received this huge financial boost and look forward to seeing the Maid once again sailing on Loch Lomond.

“There is still much work to be done but this Heritage Lottery Fund investment should give confidence to other potential investors”.

The engagement of consultants and marine experts will begin immediately with all necessary surveys, reports, and costs being ready for the spring of 2016.

It is anticipated that Maid of the Loch will sail again in 2018.

It’s all a far cry from the day I was wandering through the woods at Balloch, and came across the derelict, vandalised, and stripped hull many years ago – I had no idea it was even there, or had survived being withdrawn when it fell out of service.

I’ve always regretted being fairly far from Balloch, even by car, as I’d liked to have a hand in part of the restoration, but even though my company was involved in a suitable discipline, I doubt if my colleagues would have backed any handouts. (I better not be any more specific.)

Fingers crossed they do get the job done soon, and I’ll be able to have a trip on the loch.

I did sail on her just before she fell out of service (while I was still a kid), and had always planned to make my own way there for a sail or two, but by the time that was possible, she was ‘gone’, and the next time I saw her was as a derelict hull lying somewhere on the shores of Balloch. And even that was just a chance find, as I had gone for a wander in the woods somewhere along the loch. I had no idea even that much had survived (having heard she had fallen out of service, I’d just assumed she’d been scrapped and was gone for good), but even the thought it was only a matter of time before even that was gone.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Final phase of New Lanark restoration set to begin

I find it almost amazing to read that work described a restoration of the FINAL building to be restored at New Lanark has been funded, and is about to begin.

I was still at school when I learned of New Lanark, which was one the places the school took my class during a week away when we were treated to a break, a sort of ‘retreat’, where we stayed at various places of interest, and we spent a day there.

I was so impressed, my project documenting the village and the mill history even won a prize.

Then, the entire village was a derelict ruin, bar the few houses that were still occupied. We could not even visit the factory buildings or school, such was their truly dangerous condition – not that there would have been anybody to show us around.

I did not return until I was an adult, and over the years was able to watch the place grow as money was found to fund the work, and bring people back to live in the restored homes.

The only I dislike intensely about the progress made down there is the appearance of an expensive luxury hotel, fitted onto one of the old factory building – but, on the other hand, I do acknowledge that its presence is probably one of the factors that maintains the village and keeps it view, so I have to tolerate it. And it’s buried away at the far end of the site, so I don’t have to see it – much.

The only thing I really miss is the little car museum that once lived there (and moved to the Argyll Car Factory in Alexandria, but closed not long after). I never made it through the door before it moved, as I saw most of the exhibits out of doors, as I usually visited on special days where they were brought out for an airing. I didn’t make the same mistake while it was in Alexandria I’m out of touch now, but it closed around 2009, and may not have re-opened.)

Work on £1.5m New Lanark restoration set to begin – The Scotsman

I got lucky (since I had no camera back in those days), and tripped over a pic of New Lanark as seen in 1980, which shows the condition of the buildings then:

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Whither Kinloch Castle (and many others)?

A recent article on the uncertain future of Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum caught my eye. Not only for the reminder it provided regarding the fate of the building, but for the way it expanded on the potential conflicts that a community with such a feature can find itself having to deal with.

I can’t better a 40-page booklet produced in 1999 that describes this great Victorian extravaganza.

But this text, to accompany the picture below, gives some idea of the effort that went into its creation:

James Bullough bought Isle of Rum 1886 for £35,000. His Son George inherited much of the family fortune and spent £15 million (in today’s money) constructing the castle. Building began in 1897 with 300 craftsmen, and was finished in 1900.

The red sandstone was from a quarry in Corrie, Arran.

For the gardens 250,000 tons of soil was imported, a walled garden and greenhouses built, water features, bridges and appropriate ornaments. The greenhouses were for peaches and grapes and other fruit associated with the Mediterranean. Sir George died in 1939 leaving the castle to his wife who in turn sold it to Scottish Natural Heritage for around £1 per acre.

Sadly the castle has fallen into disrepair but SNH are paying for the upkeep. The hostel in the back will have to move however. The building featured in BBC’s ‘restoration’ in 2003.

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle © Ashley Dace via geograph

Features like Kinloch are, in my opinion, possibly even more at risk than others which have already reached an advanced state of decay, While the latter are obviously in need of help, somewhere like Kinloch, which the casual observer would look at and consider was looking ‘Ok’, have a reached a stage where relatively little money (and I do use the word ‘relatively’ deliberately) would keep in good condition, and able to become, or remain, and asset to their community, and an attraction to keep visitors and tourists coming into the area.

Not spending the money, and this is why I used the word ‘relatively’ a moment ago, means building up a huge bill to restore the place when it falls apart in a few years, possibly destroying not only itself, but any valuable contents within.

Scottish National Heritage told BBC Scotland that some £1.5 million had been spent on repairs to Kinloch over the last five years, particularly to the roof, to keep it wind and watertight.

While that is not an amount to be ignored, it’s a fraction of the cost of restoring the building (if that became necessary) in future, should it fail to have that relatively low cost of ownership maintained.

The community quandary

But there’s a problem – Kinloch Castle is on an island, and that has a community to support.

That makes it unlike many mainland features, where the only real issue is an owner who is being financially crippled by being handcuffed to a giant money-pit.

So, the equation becomes harder to balance than in many other locations. Is it better to raise and use funds to maintain the castle, and benefits from the tourists and visitors that come with the wallets and credit cards? Or would it be better to let the castle go, and use any money that can be raised to support the community more directly?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t have all the information needed to even have a stab at it.

I just hope those who have to eventually have to make such decisions do have it.

Via ‘Time running out’ for damaged Kinloch Castle


August 3, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local brewery backs Maid of the Loch

Back in March, we mentioned the renewed funding campaign for the restoration of the Maid of the Loch, and her 60th anniversary which lands in 2013.

Sad to say that the campaign is seeking to raise some £4.9 million to complete the restoration of the much-loved paddle steamer, which means she is unlikely to return to steam in time to mark that 60th anniversary with a sail on the loch, which would have been nice.

We went into more detail in March and you can read that post here.

Almost £5 million is a big goal, and according to the Maid’s own web site, the work completed to date, which has been carried out by volunteers, has cost less than £2 million, which makes the current target look even tougher to meet.

One of the thinks that has been apparent in past years has been the lack of any backers – in terms of a corporate name.

That has now changed, with a local brewery having given its name to the effort:

Loch Lomond Brewery has produced a 60th anniversary Maid of the Loch beer, and owner Fiona MacEachern has pledged a percentage of sales of the drink towards restoring the ship.

She said: “We live in the area and the business is on the loch, so we’re keen to see the Maid run again. It’s a big part of Loch Lomond’s heritage and hopefully its future, so any way we could help we were keen to.”

Loch Lomond Brewery
Block 1, Unit 5
Lomond Industrial Estate
G83 0TL

P: 01389 755698
email us:

Via Maid of the Loch campaign backed by Lomond brewery – Heritage –

While it may seem that the project has taken a long to get to this stage, it must be remembered that the Maid lay derelict and vandalised for many years after being withdrawn from service, while no-one had any idea what could be done with her. During that time, her interior was gutted for scrap and souvenirs. In part, this turned out to be helpful, as the souvenir hunters (the good ones at least) responded to appeals, and returned original parts to help with the restoration work.

See also Maid Of The Loch, Loch Lomond, Scotland,

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

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