Blair House Plans

As plans for the Blair House refurbishment are now well-developed and as people are so generously supporting it through the crowdfund, it seems a good time to provide a bit more information about what these plans are. I would add the disclaimer that none of them are set in stone, but they are well advanced and I hope work will be complete and Blair House reopened later this year.

Blair House and the adjoining Acharn Farm

The refurbished Blair House will have 20 beds in 7 bedrooms. Its basic rate will probably be £250 per night which works out as £12.50 per bed or £35 per room (maybe less for a week/ more in peak season etc).

These competitive rates are possible thanks to low housekeeping costs: visitors will have to bring their own bedding and towels, and will be expected to leave it clean. This does not mean it is not also homely and luxurious!

It may be possible to book only part of Blair House, but as it will not be staffed this will only be by special arrangement. For the same reason, it will not be possible to book individual beds. For small groups the nearby Clova Hotel has bunkhouse, lodge and hotel accommodation and I can testify to its excellent bar and restaurant.

My aim with the refurbishment is to solve three major problems — fire safety, bathrooms, and heating — while changing the character of the house as little as possible. This is likely to cost around £200,000.

We’ve all fallen down the bunkhouse stairs … They will be replaced, and turned 180 degrees!

Those who remember Blair House from its Edinburgh Academy days will be particularly interested in what this means in practice. The major changes are:

  • Central heating powered by log-burners, replacing the coal fires and storage heaters
  • Solar thermal supplementing the hot water immersion heaters
  • Insulate loft and inside internal walls
  • Five shower rooms (two upstairs) to replace the washroom
  • Old washroom area divided into downstairs ensuite bedroom and new ‘playroom’
  • Old toilet block to become new drying room
  • Dorms and stair on bunkhouse side reconfigured to meet fire regulations
  • Dining room to become kitchen-dining room
  • Clear roof to porch reducing the blockage of light to the dining room
  • Full rewiring and specialist fire alarm system
  • Easily-accessed and hardcored car park for 5 cars
The proposed ground floor plans. Not much change to the house side (right) but a reconfigured bunkhouse side (left).
The upstairs plans. Upstairs toilets, such luxury! And the ‘study’ will be a real library, full of books, and, I hope, a log-burner (not yet marked on the plan)
Site plan, showing non-muddy-slope carpark; solar panels; and clear porch roof. Suncatchers!

As the plans show, it is an odd building. The whole site is a nineteenth-century farm steading. The ‘house’ side seems to have originally been one-and-a-half of three farm cottages and the ‘bunkhouse’ a barn. I believe it was all acquired in the early twentieth century from the farm by the Forestry Commission, which converted it into a bunkhouse for those planting Glen Doll Forest. It was purchased with the Blair bequest by the Edinburgh Academy in 1970 and refurbished, and the porch added, by staff. I have been visiting it since about 1985 with my father, history teacher George Harris.

Eleanor and George Harris exploring in Corrie Fee in 2006. Silly hats.

Blair House will be run on a social enterprise basis, meaning that after its refurbishment debts and people’s time has been paid for, any profits will go into a fund dedicated to fulfilling its aims which I have summarised as ‘restoring nature by inspiring people’. This might include funded trips for groups which could not otherwise afford to go; subsidising training courses; or supporting other charities or projects with similar aims. My intention is to publish an annual report on this activity.

As part of the social enterprise ethos I also plan to maintain the link with Trees for Life established through the crowdfund, by inviting visitors to plant a tree (£5) for each car that travels up and for each basket of logs used in heating.

I plan to redeploy the washroom sinks in the new bathrooms. Waste not, want not – and they’re lovely!

I hope you like the plans which are the result of many people’s ideas and comments. Please do add your own especially if you have valuable experience or expertise. I would also invite you to make a donation, however small, to the crowdfunder which runs until 24 March. This will not only help directly with the cost of refurbishment, it also means Blair House is re-founded on the basis of a community of support.

Please stay in touch by following Blair House on facebook and following Eleanor Harris on twitter.