Sunday, 21 July 2013

Auchans Castle : Balintore V0.2

A friend called Alasdair from my home town of Prestwick recently visited me at Balintore Castle. He was the boy across the road from my granny: so our connection goes way, way back. We got talking and I revealed that I had almost restored Auchans Castle just 5 miles from Prestwick. The castle and the surrounding 8 acres came on the market around 15 years ago  - of course I was completely unaware of the building before this! :-) Supposedly, it was partially constructed from the stones of Dundonald Castle, an even older building that I had heard of, never visited, but seen from a distance. It is amazing how we never go to see the treasures in our own area.

When it was on the market. I visited with an architect who had worked on medieval tower house restorations previously. The restoration was eminently feasible. The building was 50% there, and the other 50% were the stones lying around about the building. For a medieval structure, it was huge and intact - so the auguries were good. Mediaeval restorations can all too often end up with problematically titchy accommodation!

I stayed on-site after my architect had gone. As it grew dark, I considered whether I would take the project on. Reality checks have to be done on-site. There was a bit of traffic noise from the A759, the main Troon to Kilmarnock road. This was at the end of a 150 m drive - perhaps this distance was adequate clearance? The noise wasn't loud or irritating but "there".  And of course, the other consideration was "Can one go back?".  It is in human nature to want to feel one has moved on, and yet this was so close to where I grew up. On the other hand, was this a positive sign?

By the end of the evening, something did not feel right.  Either factor: slight road noise or "going back" would not have been deal breakers on their own. but together they were. It was a huge disappointment, the setting was beautiful and the building was perfect. Another building had fallen through recently, and I had pinned all my hopes on Auchans.

Anyhow, Alasdair mentioned he had a photograph of Auchans from the 1920's and that it was intact then. I had no idea such a photograph existed and had assumed the ruination was centuries old.

Here is the promised photograph Alasdair sent me afterwards. I have to admit, as much as I love this building, I had not expected anything quite so spectacular and atmospheric. The men standing on the tower give an idea of the impressive scale. I am wondering if I made the right decision, the castle and grounds sold eventually for a mere £88k to the adjacent quarry. No restoration has been done, but the area round the castle has been cleared and fenced off.

Balintore Castle emerged directly from the ruins of Auchans Castle. I contacted the Historic Scotland representative for Ayrshire who had been hugely helpful with my earlier researches on Auchans, and moaned how I had again lost out on a building even if only due to traffic noise. Guess which building the representative recommended instead?

Auchans Castle in the 1920's



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