With 25 years under his belt, long time served electrician Derek Reid thought he’d seen it all.
Until, that is, he saw the job spec for renovating the 15th century Borthwick castle, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Faced with walls of 9 to 12ft thickness, narrow uneven staircases (deliberately designed to trip up any invading hordes), and pyro cables which were at all times to be be hidden “discreetly”. And that’s before he’d even attempted to install one of the consumer units feeding power to the 10 luxury guest rooms. It’s fair to say this was not an easy brief.
“It was the biggest, most challenging job I’ve had in those 25 years,” said Derek, who’s just celebrated a quarter of a century with Bonyrigg-based SELECT Member firm John Noble Electrical. “One of the hardest things was keeping the cables out of sight. Nothing was left to chance; the cables were to go up the seams of the mortar, rather than on the stone walls themselves.” Given the complex requirements you’d be forgiven for thinking that Derek would have wanted to beat a retreat, especially after discovering one of the rooms – the Red Rose suite – was supposedly haunted by the ghost of maid who was murdered by the guards of the long since departed Lord Borthwick, for bearing his child out of wedlock.
“After I read online that some of ladies who have stayed here said they felt like they were being pulled out of their beds – when they were actually dead to the world [metaphorically speaking, Ed] – I refused point blank to work here after dark.” However, this is when the castle’s refurbishment project manager, Scott Thomson, surprisingly tells me that this is one of the main attractions of the recently developed keep.
He adds: “We’ve actually got quite a few regulars who come to stay here because of that!”
When it comes to décor no expense has been spared. The rooms are luxurious; they all feature pop up televisions at the foot of the beds and marble clad ensuites. A big spending and international clientele is starting to flock to the exclusive hire venue, which also boasts a £15,000 ‘self-playing’ grand piano.
“We’ve had no Scottish clients so far – they’ve all been from the U.S., Russia, China or Europe,” adds Thomson, although the castle is still finding its feet insofar as it’s marketing audience is concerned. It is very much being billed as a private hire venue for upmarket and corporate occasions, catering for groups of up to 100.
And as far as energy consumption goes, a vast biomass plant has been sited in front of the gatehouse to keep the lights on, with fuel bills being kept down by a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) subsidy. “It’s about 5.5p per kilowatt hour,” adds Thomson, who also reveals the heating bill has been in the region of £5,000 for every two months, a sum that can be reduced by around 50 per cent by the RHI scheme. With underfloor heating in the great in the Great Hall, it is certainly an investment likely to be appreciated by guests as will the exterior LEDs which bathe the castle in stunning iridiscent light by nightfall.
‘The ‘chef friendly’ switching unit
One of the most impressive features of the castle are the ground level LEDs, which cast the castle in majestic colours at night.
Energy saving LEDs have also been installed in the Great Hall, although the lights are warm and sympathetic to the historical features of the keep.
Emergency lighting circuits have been installed on the narrow staircases and in rooms, and a special ‘chef friendly’ switching unit in the kitchen allows total control of catering facilities.
Mineral insulated copper sheathed cable also flatters the appearance of the traditional setting and laser beam smoke detectors afford state-of-the-art fire safety protection.
Even the sockets have been handcrafted by a local blacksmith in keeping with the period metalwork detailing.
Quote: Alasdair Noble, of John Noble Electrical, said: “It’s been one of the biggest projects we’ve ever worked on. With the age of the castle, client requirements and the thickness of the walls it’s been a real challenge. But we’re proud of the finish we’ve achieved.”