Eilean Donan Castle is one of Scotland’s most iconic castles. Its dramatic location on a small island at the meeting point of three great sea lochs at the Kyle of Localsh, attracts thousands of visitors including film crews of major blockbusters such as James Bond ‘The World is Not Enough’.
Architect Lachie Stewart of ANTA Architects has a long-standing family relationship with the Castle. His great grandparents, Craig and Bella Gilstrap, restored it in the Arts & Crafts style during the 1920s. More recently he has been directly involved for almost 30 years since completing restoration works in the early 1990s then designing the first visitor centre in 1998/9 and this building’s subsequent extension in 2005.
The new visitor centre creates a protected inner space for the Castle in its exposed maritime position. The original ‘U’ shaped visitor centre was open to the sea and prevailing wind from the south west. This has been screened off by the new building which creates a full enclosure to the courtyard and provides valuable shelter for those buying tickets. The pitched roof cantilevers almost 3 metres at both ends of the building providing visitors with much needed protection as transactions take place below. Two deep glulam beams support the roof and roof light, giving it a distinctive character.
The new building has two floors: the ground floor houses an automated ticketing facility, the newly introduced multi-language audio guides and a food preparation area for the new ‘street food’ offering, which reduces the need for an internal café space. The first floor is divided into three spaces with a manager’s office at one end and a boardroom at the other. The central area provides a roof-lit, open plan office space for the sixty strong Castle team.
Internally the CLT has been left exposed throughout with surface mounted services giving an industrial feel which contrasts well with the historic context of the castle. It was important for the new building to be subservient to the castle. All the Castle’s other buildings are very simple in terms of their roofscape and their vernacular design is almost agricultural. The new extension embraces and develops this theme.
A total of 150m3 of CLT was used in the construction of Eilean Donan Castle Visitor Centre which equates to 110 tonnes of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere when the trees were growing and stored to the wood product over its lifetime. Wood is a renewable construction material and the length of time required to grow this wood again in the Austrian forest is under a minute, 50.4 seconds.
Client: Conchra Charitable Trust
Architects: ANTA Architects
Timber Engineers and Specialist Installers: EURBAN
Engineers: Price & Myers
Main Contractors: William Gray Construction WGC (Scotland) Ltd
Suppliers: Stora Enso