Lachie Stewart fell in love with the ruins of Ballone Castle when he was an architecture student. Many years later he returned to stake his claim on it
Ballone Castle stands on the edge of the Moray Firth, north of Inverness, between fields and open sea, its lime-harled walls and turrets reflecting sunshine and storms. Architect Lachie Stewart had first seen it as a student, and had cherished its memory ever since. Ballone crumbled quietly away in a field of sheep until Lachie and his wife Annie found it again on a ramble around Scotland looking for a castle to buy. “The restoration of a castle was an ambition I’d had since I was a child,” he says.
Unlike many ancient highland buildings, Ballone escaped ‘improvement’ by overzealous Victorians; although a ruin, it was still essentially a late-medieval Z-plan tower. The fortified house was built in 1590 of random rubble and ashlar stone by the Dunbar clan. Successive owners ruled the strategic site during its turbulent history as the power of the chieftains shifted over the centuries.
Armed with lots of knowledge and enthusiasm but little money, the couple embarked on what would become a seven-year restoration project. They had no illusions that it would be an easy job. Lachie had taken a break from architecture to help his wife set up Anta, a textile business, so once their home in London was sold they not only moved themselves north, but looms, business and children went too.
For Lachie, the work was a labour of love. He managed to match the timber, slate and stone used by the original builders, and had all 86 windows made by local craftsmen. He mixed the lime himself in a pit at the base of the castle and added pigment to achieve an authentic pale creamy colour.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 287-298, issue 100.
Photography Andreas von Einsiedel
Words Johanna Thornycroft