Mugdock and Craigend are castles situated in Mugdock Country Park, East Dunbartonshire. The former is 14th century and the latter 19th but both fuel the conundrum – how can one save a historic building and safeguard its future?
Mugdock - as a Victorian mansion with tower of original castle rising at back
Mugdock is a 14th century castle of some distinction and of unusual design. It appears to have been a curtain-walled castle with square towers at the corners and entered by a portcullis gateway. Of this, one tower is complete and the other reduced to its vaulted basement. The gate and curtain walls are fragmentary. Destroyed in the 1640s, its final form was a fine mansion of the 19th century within extensive gardens. Abandoned in the 20th century, it was consumed by fire in the 1960s and for 30 years hidden from public view.
Ten miles from Glasgow and 260 hectares in extent the possibilities of the estate were recognised and, in the 1990s, it became one of Scotland's Country Parks offering a wide range of activities including walking cycling, horse riding, outdoor learning, cultural and sporting events. Visitors flocked and the park flourished.
The consolidation and presentation of Mugdock Castle was an early priority. From one who knew it in its neglected state, this has become one of the highlights of the park. The remains of the Victorian mansion were removed to reveal the old castle which was consolidated and opened to the public.
Mugdock today with the mansion removed to expose the tower
A visit is enhanced by Information boards and entry to the tower. This, and its splendid position above the loch, have made it a popular attraction.
This brings me to Craigend Castle built in 1812 in the Regency Gothic style. Not to everyone's taste but even in its ruined state it forms a significant feature in the landscape.
The building poses a number of challenges due to its current poor condition
Craigend was in continuous occupation until 1954 when, having served briefly as - of all things - a zoo, it was abandoned. The grounds became part of Mugdock Country Park but the house was fenced off for public safety. The stables, however, were preserved, and now form the tea room and retail outlet for the park.
TOP: Craigend Castle fenced off for safety
BOTTOM: Craigend's stable block - saved as it has a use
Projects for the mansion have been legion. In 2012 it was put on the market and received only one offer – to rebuild the castle as a residential property.
In December 2014 a Trust came up with a proposal to develop the building as an activity centre, but note the caveat:
"The building poses a number of challenges due to its current poor condition, the scale of the work that's required and its listed status."
The aim is to get lottery or heritage funding to develop the building while retaining the façade. The outcome is awaited.
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle