Brodick Castle is located on the beautiful island of Arran, on the west coast of Scotland. Though the present-day castle was built in 1844, the site had a historical role as a lookout fortress, thanks to its strategic position overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Today, the castle and its grounds have a different role, attracting locals and tourists alike, who visit to explore the beauty and wildlife of the island of Arran.
Arran has been characterised as “Scotland in miniature”, epitomising the best of what Scotland has to offer with its stunning landscapes and wildlife. Fittingly, the National Trust for Scotland describes Brodick as “a microcosm of the best of Scotland’s heritage”. This is reflected in the estate’s formal gardens, woodlands, waterfalls and stunning flora and fauna. The castle was the ancient seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, as is something of a Victorian era time capsule, with a collection of treasures which give glimpses of an age of aristocratic luxury.
In 2017, National Trust for Scotland announced they would invest 2 million in the estate at Brodick, revitalising the iconic property. Soon after this, CAP.CO was commissioned to create an adventure play attraction for Brodick Castle.
This design and build project was always going to be a challenging one in many ways. The land itself was rugged, often wet, and there was a deep burn running through what was to become the heart of the adventure play site. Then add in the logistics of it being on the Isle of Arran, only accessible by ferry, and the project became a tricky one from the outset!
In addition to these challenges, the entire project needed to be very carefully planned and designed to ensure sensitivity to the historic site, its flora, fauna and wildlife. This was going to be vital to have the approval of both the NTS and the planners of North Ayrshire.
The only design brief was that there should be a gentle “theme” which acknowledged and echoed the famous animals native to Scotland. We were inspired by this brief, but most of all by the site itself. Preserving the natural characteristics of the site in their most natural state is always of great importance to CAP.CO’s design and build processes.
With this in mind, we designed 5 separate areas of play within the attraction, each depicting and alluding to a different iconic Scottish animal. The animals are the icons of the NTS – the red squirrel (Arran is famously colonised by red squirrels), the otter, the red deer and the majestic golden eagle.
The play elements and challenges specific to each area reflect the characteristics of the featured animal. The design sketches above show how the first phase of play emanates Arran’s famous red squirrels. “Squirrel Play” is home to an iconic tower which has multiple access points between levels, with a winding crawl tunnel up the outside. This connects to a maze of spiral net climbs, twisting staircases and slides down, mimicking the movements of squirrels as they chase up and down trees. Similarly, “Otter Play” encourages children and adults alike to scramble and climb on structures close to the banks of the burn.
This creates a unique and bespoke relation between the site, its wildlife and the play experience for adventurers. Natural timber posts allow the project to sit harmoniously within its beautiful setting.
After the commercial success of the adventure play at NTS Culzean, National Trust for Scotland were more than happy for CAP.CO to be on site in another NTS property. CAP.CO were commissioned to build the first phase of the design - the squirrel play. The build itself only took fourteen weeks with a CAP.CO team of up to eight on site at any one time, including local Arran recruits. It’s now looking great, settling into its surroundings and giving thousands of children and parents some amazing adventurous outdoor fun, running and playing together in a stunning Scottish location.
For more information about visiting Brodick Castle, see National Trust for Scotland’s website.