Exciting project for Craigend Castle in Mugdock has been refused by council

Craigend Castle, mugdock, former zoo'15/9/12'Photo Emma Mitchell
Craigend Castle, mugdock, former zoo'15/9/12'Photo Emma Mitchell

A Grand Designs type of project for the historic Craigend Castle at Mugdock Country Park has been knocked back by East Dunbartonshire Council.

The now derelict castle, which is the former site of Craigend Zoo - a major attraction at the park until it closed in 1955 when visitor numbers plummeted, was put on the market last October with a closing date of March this year.

No offers were received and only one person has shown interest in the property.

The interested party aims to rebuild Craigend Castle as a residential property and has estimated the cost of work at £120,000 for materials and £30,000 for labour and he’s proposed that it would take six years to complete.

The proposer has a history of restoration work and has previously worked on restoring a residential proprty in Ayrshire.

However that project was different in a number of ways - it was over a third smaller than the castle and in a conservation area rather than being a Listed Building, it also wasn’t a rebuild.

Notes from a recent agenda for a meeting of Mugdock Park committee, said: “The proposer is very enthusiastic about this project and obviously has a vision in his mind how the property could be constructed and what the completed work will be like.

“He has been in discussion with the council’s building control officer and conservation planning officer but the council would not recommend the sale of the castle to him on the basis of the information provided and the risks involved in his proposition.

“We do not feel that he has supplied adequate information to satisfy the requirements of the sale.”

In order to find out the level of his interest he has been given six months to provide certain key pieces of information.

Craigend was formerly called Gallowknowe and was owned by the Graham family from the mid 13th century until 1670 when it was purchased by Robert Smith, ancestor of the well-known Victorian antiquarian, John Guthrie Smith.

At that time the property was a small house in 10 acres of land but, by the late 1700s, the Smiths had prospered greatly having acquired property in the West Indies.

The castle was built in 1816 in Regency Gothic style by Alexander Ramsay of Jordanhill. Its interiors were stunning, especially the public rooms.

The reception hall was panelled in oak with an interlaced carved stone ceiling and stained glass windows which bore the Smith family’s coat-of-arms.

There were two drawing rooms, each with carved gothic doors and decorated with blue and silver silk wallpaper. A large conservatory led off the second drawing room and was accesses through massive carved oak doors. Craigend’s imposing opulence drew many an admiring eye across the magnificent landscaped gardens, to witness the comings and goings at ‘the big house.’

Craigend was sold in 1851 to Sir Andrew Buchanan, the former Ambassador to Habsburg Court in Vienna. Later occupants included James Outram one-time owner of the ‘Glasgow Herald’ newspaper, who leased the castle in the early 20th Century and Harold Yarrow, son of the founder of the famous shipyard Yarrow & Company, who lived there until 1940.

Part of Craigend Estate was sold to Andrew Wilson and his zoologist son William in the 1940s and they transformed Craigend into a zoo with four thousand animals, reptiles and birds.