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.


Very interested to see Tornagrain – wonderful photographs. It looks like the sort of place, with its attractive traditional houses and generous green spaces, that will make the inhabitants feel happy.

Leana Pooley

Oh Ben……You have the greatest job in the world! “Nuff” said.


Beautiful pictures of the scenery and what a lovely development and how it has progressed. That lake looked so beautiful with the trees reflecting and also the sunrise in the field early in the morning. The garden allotments are thriving. This town looks so interesting and perfect. Where I live in Canada they are almost tearing down any large corner lot and building 39 storey condos. The city is a construction zone, they even took out our beautiful pool and park area and a big hole for another 40 storey building where I live, so seeing this beautiful vegetation is just so beautiful.

Darlene Chandler

What a fabulous housing estate, so perfect in so many ways. PLease come to Australia and help us here. The houses, the fences, the gardens are so sympathetic to the surroundings. And the castle addition, wonderful. An absolute delight to scroll through. You have made my day.

Malcolm Pym

Tornagrain feels like home. Says this descendant of the Jacobite Cameron Clan.

Russell Clay McCleery

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