A Castle in the Sky

In March 2013, after years of talking about it we eventually sell up and move out of the city with our 2 year old, Gracie. We both grew up in the countryside and this is what we want for our daughter. So we swap a 2 bed flat in London for a small country pile on the west coast of Scotland that needs a lot of work. I've done a bit of interior design and my partner, Ed has a good knowledge of the outdoors – but we're on a tight budget and we've both got a lot to learn. It's a life time's project and this is a record of our adventure…

First snowfall this winter (Jan 13)

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Dreaming of a shower in the tower… (Sep 19)

After several weeks of plumbing work the hot water in the main wing is at last connected to the new biomass boiler.   This has meant getting rid of 2 immersion heaters, re-routing some original pipework and putting in a load of new pipes that run from the boiler house up to a huge new tank in the roof space  – and all the way back down again.

The house, as Ed puts it, is getting a bit ‘pipey’.   We tried to find the route of least resistance and managed to avoid any of the grand rooms – but some of the corridors are suffering.    It’s a perennial problem in old houses like this with lathe and plaster walls and lots of plaster mouldings.

This is the worst bit in part of our downstairs, back corridor…

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The black pipes are the hot water pipes covered in insulation.  The copper pipes were added a year ago to extend the heating and the white pipes were already here.   It would be good to hide them all at some point – we’re not quite sure how yet.   Another problem for another day.

The up-side is that we now have really hot water whenever we want it and it’s cheaper to heat.  The pressure is better too as it’s running directly off the mains.  It’s also another step forward in our master plan for this side of the house:   we’ve got 3 small bathrooms to renovate and one of the large bedroom’s on the top floor is earmarked to become a fourth.   It took a bit of time to persuade Ed of this plan but if you can’t have a huge bathroom in a house like this then when can you?

One of the lovely features of this room is the inside of the small round tower in the corner.  At the moment it’s  a semi-circular cupboard but I’m hoping to transform it into a walk-in shower.

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Turning this vision into a reality is a long way off but ever since we bought the house I’ve been dreaming of relaxing in the bath in the middle of this room – a glass of something in my hand, a real fire burning in the hearth, taking in the view of the mountains in the distance as snow falls gently on the lawn.  When that day comes my work here will be done.


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It’s bloody cold but we do have deer…(Mar 10)

It’s snowing. I’ve never been this cold inside a house since I was a kid and we had no central heating. Before we moved up here I wondered whether it would be so cold in the winter that we’d be able to see our breath when we woke up in the morning – another childhood memory (also one of Ed’s) and not one that I intended to repeat. Ed thought not, given that the side of the house we are living in is partially double glazed – but I’m sad to say that this morning he was proved wrong. I’m going with the ‘just wear another jumper’ theory but I’m wearing thermals, several layers, a hat and 2 pairs of mountain climbing socks – and I still can’t get warm.

So yesterday we dared to put on the heating. It’s oil powered and it costs a fortune. The previous owners advised only 6 hours for 6 months of the year (which cost them 6 grand a year!). Perhaps not surprisingly, 3 hours in the morning and 3 in the evening is making very little difference – and also feels totally extravagant as for now we’re only using a few rooms. There’s a window seat in the main room with a huge old cast iron radiator underneath, so when the heating’s on it’s an obvious place to take refuge.

So here we are at dusk this evening, wrapped up in our layers, watching the snow fall on the lawn ….and almost warm. It’s a view that takes in the sea and distant snowy mountains. The fire in the woodburner (we had a delivery of dry logs earlier today) is cracking loudly in the background and suddenly 2 roe deer come scampering out of the trees…

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They stay for quite a while – skipping about in the snow and locking their baby antlers. It’s a magical scene.

I’ve no idea how we’re going to live here comfortably in the winter  – but a sprinkling of fairy dust like this does make me feel optimistic that we’ll manage to work it out.