Northern progress

I’ve been on a bit of a mission on the second half of this week, taking photographs of our Tornagrain New Town project and two other Scottish houses we’ve worked on.   It was an astonishing evening on Wednesday staying with friends in Cumbria…. I arrived in time for a quick circuit through the wood, and a glimpse of Ullswater far below.   Pretty close to heaven on earth on an evening like that.  The following morning I continued, via the little development we designed years ago now at Knockroon, for the Prince’s Foundation, on the edge of Dumfries House.  There is some beautiful gardening going on in those front gardens…. Who would think that these houses were ten years old?   They feel very settled.

And from Ayrshire, I set off north, arriving in Morayshire that afternoon.  Here was the evening light at 10.30pm.   The land of the (almost) midnight sun.  So beautiful.  The following morning, at 3.45am.  Dawn.  I spent the day photographing the house where we’ve been working very slowly and very happily for over a decade now, and then later that afternoon headed over to Tornagrain, which regular readers will know is one of my favourite projects in the office – the new town we’re designing and masterplanning to the east of Inverness.  It was wonderful to see it all basking in the remarkable June sunshine.  There are so many favourite views and vistas. Forgive if this is getting repetitive but good for readers who can’t make the trip in person to see how it’s evolving and settling in now.  All the houses you see here are just a few years old.  At the centre of the town is a long linear park which maps the path of an existing below-ground gas pipeline which we are not able to move or to build over (or plant large trees on). It’s like a wonderful green lung through the new houses, and we give it plenty of different character as you pass – as you’ll see later.
Standing on the same spot and looking the other way is a wildlife haven, complete with hedgehog hotels!   The allotments, always my favourite part of any town.  The newly erected Market Cross, carefully designed with amazing iconography by our client John, Earl of Moray – drawn by us, and carved by a stone-carver in Doune.
In situ – just waiting for the Herras fencing to be removed!   And the welcome arrival of Hillhead Cafe to the square also…. The new allotment with the living willow wall.  More green lung on the pipeline corridor.  The sun began to settle and the lighting was perfect for taking proper photographs. These are all on my I phone but I had my proper lens and tripod hard at work capturing the magical light.  Obviously getting better and better….  A golden glow of sunset.  And I got up VERY early the following morning to capture first light.   I suppose it’s one of those projects that makes me just so, so happy.  I can’t really explain it, but all the ingredients have come together.

An afternoon of lying in the sunshine… and going to the river pool.   The water was warm and delicious!
Then I was down to the beautiful house that Rupert Cunningham, our design director in the studio, has been working for further south in the Highlands – adding this new wing to a wonderful, ancient, historical castle.  The work is magical – quiet, yet confident – part of a gently evolving tradition.  The sunshine was tricky – one second it was there, but the next it was hiding behind swelling clouds.  But it was a beautiful evening nonetheless.  But this morning, having not set an alarm clock, I just woke up as the sun was rising. Slipping out of the house I hurtled across the meadow just in time to capture this magical moment as the sun came over the trees beyond.  Five minutes later the moment had gone.

It’s a fleeting business catching the best moments of our buildings. You can imagine that I’m tired, but I’m enjoying it.  I’m normally a person who likes to look forward, but it’s good to look back too, and to revisit things.

All this is for a book that I have been gently working towards for rather too long now, but which is now a big priority in my life – coming out next autumn, 2024.  Watch this space!  But I’m glad to bring you along on the ride.


I am fascinated by Tornagrain and wonder how large the whole area is and how many houses/buldings will be built in the final design. It’s charming.

Becky Ellis

I love this post Ben (love all of them actually). Have always loved Tornagrain – and yes you should be so proud of it ! Why cant all new villages be built like this ??! I tell so many people about it. And could I please marry the man who owns the Castle – I want to live there. Christine. Mt Macedon Aus.

christine gascoigne

Oh, what a wonderful tour!
I just found your blog and am thoroughly enjoying reading your entries. Thank you for sharing
all of this!


A splendid grouping of photographs and truly inspirational. It’s almost like being there. Thank you, Ben.


Why cannot all new developments be made like Tornagrain with green spaces, cafes and different looking houses.
Instead we see estates going up the size of large villages with lookalike houses crammed in with no thought of community.
They should all have a village green, trees, natural space, and places to meet up.
Well done to your team please can we put you in charge of housing planning for the whole UK.
Tony Howe Suffolk

Antony Howe

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