Reflecting on Scottish Mills Weekend 2022

Share on:

As SPAB Scotland prepares for another fantastic Scottish Mills Weekend this May, we’re looking back on some of the wonderful mills featured in last year’s event.

Over the weekend we visited a range of fascinating mills, including special access to sites around Blairgowrie which aren’t usually open to the public. We also held an exhibition of some stunning posters designed by SPAB Scotland committee member Brigit Luffingham, which you can explore below. 

One of the featured mills was the Ardverikie Estate Sawmill, an interesting mill which is now accessible as an interpretive reconstruction based at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore. In 1991, after falling into disrepair, it was offered to the museum, with the water wheel and lade forming the basis of the timber reconstruction due to the dilapidation of the rest of the building. While repairs are still needed to the waterwheel, it is an important survival and shows that an innovative approach to the restoration of a site can have value when other options are not available.

Mark Watson also led a tour of the impressive Stanley Mills on the River Tay. This is a site that manufactured textiles from the 18th century right up to 1989, with the mills adapting over time due to changes in technology and production. Some of the mill buildings have been altered or lost over the years, however what remains alongside the archaeological record, provides a fascinating insight into the changes in industry over the centuries. For example, there are a variety of wheel pits, cast iron columns and early examples of fire prevention methods in evidence.

A group of SPAB delegates gathered on a bridge outside Stanley mills, overlooking the River Tay.

Our visit to Stanley Mills, on the River Tay. Credit: Tyler Lott Johnston

Another unique style of mill property featured in our exhibition was the 18th Century Preston Mill, which was in use right up till 1959. The machinery has been updated over the years, and in 2018 a functioning waterwheel was replaced to allow for its use in practical demonstrations. It is set apart by its distinct and appealing aesthetic, with its construction of coursed rubble with a pantile roof and exterior kiln.

The last water-powered mill to be built in Scotland is John O’Groats Mill, which was operational between 1901-2001. It still contains a very complete set of machinery, which allows for a great deal to be learned from the site about this type of cornmill. In exciting news, the mill has recently been awarded £1.5million from the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. This is a wonderful opportunity to repair the mill, and restore its importance at the heart of the local community, with the inclusion of a purpose built community space.

Sadly, many of these buildings now require extra care and attention to ensure their ongoing survival, so raising awareness is vital. Events like the Mills Weekend will hopefully encourage more engagement and collaboration - as one attendee told us, “I can see this leading to interesting projects in the future”.

A group of SPAB Scotland Mills Weekend delegates cheering outside a mill.
Scottish Mills Weekend delegates. Credit: Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust.

The weekend was a great success and gave SPAB Scotland and our friends at the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the range of mills and mill architecture in Scotland.

It was also a fantastic opportunity for mill owners, workers and other interested parties to network and share ideas and advice. As one delegate told us, “it was a very memorable and interesting couple of days. I am sure all who attended will treasure the memory!”.

We’re delighted to say that Scottish Mills Weekend will be returning this year on 13 and 14 May. We’ll be publishing the full list of Scottish Mills that can be visited nearer the time, sign up to the SPAB Scotland mailing list so you don’t miss it!

Thank you to all the wonderful speakers, hosts, and everyone who attended this enjoyable and informative weekend. Thanks to Historic Environment Scotland too, for funding the event.

A table of refreshments in front of our exhibition of SPAB Scotland mills posters.

Scottish Mills Weekend exhibition. Credit: Lucy Stewart. 


Article complied by Madeleine Clark, SPAB Scotland Guardian

Get involved