Progress at Tornagrain

22 August 2019
Ben Pentreath

This will be a blog of many pictures and few words, designed to give everyone who’s not able to get themselves to Inverness a good look at the emerging town we are designing up in the Highlands.  It’s so exciting to see progress at Tornagrain – and as many regular readers will know, this is perhaps one of my favourite projects.  If you search back through old blogs, you can read the story – if you are unfamiliar, or need a refresher, perhaps starting with this one, or one of the more recent posts here.  It’s absolutely amazing to compare back to a few months ago and to see how quickly it’s taking shape – and, at the end of a good summer in Scotland, how wonderfully all the new landscaping and planting is taking shape and bedding in.

And I wanted to get a quick little blog out before this weekend – because today, I’m about to head off to the Melplash show, and tomorrow we’ve got Bridie coming down for the Great Dorset Steam fair…. and what with one thing and another, I think that would just be too many blogs all in one go.

So, here we go. These photos are of Malvina Green, a tiny green surrounded by cottages, named after my client John Moray’s mother, Malvina. The timber columns are a characteristic detail of many of the Moray Estate cottages built in the 19th century.

Everywhere, the estate is planting a good selection of very robust plants. Bee friendly!!

This is one of my favourite little cottages. Originally it was built without the porch, but the new owners liked their neighbours porches so much that they added one of their own!

Views to trees and distant hills everywhere. 

The tall red apartment building is on the terminus of a long vista road.  There’s commercial space in the ground floor – a crucial part of the Tornagrain principles to get mixed use throughout the settlement – not just a housing estate. 

The first terrace of cottages stepping down the hill of Croy Road:

Parking is in rear mews courtyards with simple boarded timber garages, with flats above so it’s not just a boring car park.

For some reason this pink house is one of my favourites!

New streets under construction. 

Around this green, the houses are more delicately coloured. 

The first stone facade, in local natural sandstone!

Looking back up the Croy Road…

The very first houses completed – paired villas. 

The planting is looking incredible and trees growing so well! Now you can see that apartment building again:

We’d headed off for a drive to Tain to go and look at the town square which John wanted to measure as a potential inspiration for our town square, which we are planning at the moment…. And, as we drove back, the most beautiful evening light seemed to be happening. We pulled back into the town to take some more photos. 

Suddenly, over the rooftops, opened up a rainbow…. 

Beautiful golden evening light….

I posted some of these pictures on instagram and a recurring comment was ‘where are all the people’.  It’s a funny thing, but when I’m taking photos of my buildings, I tend to wait for a car or a person to move out of shot. But one of these days, I’ll enjoy writing a blog called ‘where are all the people’ and can ruminate a little bit more on that subject.

For now, I just wanted to record a work in progress of what really is one of the most exciting projects in the office. As always, we tear ourselves away and I can’t wait to be back. It’s especially good to have an excuse to get to Scotland though, these days!

19 comments on this post


Lovely, but I’d like to see a few breaks in the facades: bows and jutting windows, and balconies — architectural gestures that bespeak generosity. Also, the architecture needs to acknowledge that as the climate becomes milder, people are going to want greater connection of interiors with outside. So some enablement of that needs to made at the back.

Madeline Lodgesays:

Tornagrain is so lovely, Ben. Just as at the CG Fry development in Bradford-on-Avon you consulted on, one feels there will be a ‘real place’ there. People will want to move there, be proud of living there and make a real community. Gardens will flourish and lives will too. If only all new developments could be this way.

Jan belchersays:

Ben, what beautiful design ideas you have, great talent. It makes me want to live there. I am also following your little house near the loch, I am very excited for you. Love reading your blogs.

Sally Leonardsays:

Ben, would you and your team please design a similar place here in Texas??!! Beautiful!!


Dear Ben,
how wonderful to see such a progress! I love this project with all the colours and all the different shape of buildings love especially the Malvina Green and the timber columns cottages ! I’ve never seen before such a project, congratulations, this is architecture of its best!
I’ve also enjoyed all your photos of the Melplash Show, congratulations to Charlie too for his giant vegetables and dahlias!
Wish you now a lovely and summery weekend !
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

Clay McCleerysays:

Makes me homesick!

Darlene Chandlersays:

Beautiful development of housing. I cannot wait to see more of it in the future. So nice the colour schemes and buildings.


This is an achievement the like of which we haven’t seen for about 100 years, and so visionary. The team involved should really be celebrated for the effort they’ve gone to to make it happen.


Lovely! If I were to move to Scotland, I know where I would live!!


Whilst each building on it’s own is beautiful. I am saddened that they are practically on top of each other. Surely with so much land, each home could of been given more green space/privacy. There is a sub-division somewhat like this in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada. Buildings are gorgeous (Ben worthy), yet they are so crammed in, that once you add barking dogs, 2 cars per household, and all the other insanity of every day life–it isn’t as serene, and there is NO privacy. Plus the ratio of homes to businesses should be increased, a chemist, a café,etc. In Niagara, what was supposed to be a “village” with a main street, has become a large housing estate with about 4 businesses.


So sorry to have missed you …hope all well
Catch you next time…hope Charlie loved the bottles
Wilma x


Absolutely breathtaking, Ben. The timber columns!!! Wonderful work by you and your team!


Ben, this looks an amazing place, a beautiful mixture of houses but are there any shops, pubs, cafes etc to bring it ‘alive’ ?

David Sanderssays:

I can only endorse Caroline T-B’s sentiments, Ben. Boris should appoint you as Minister of Housing Design for the UK.

Beautiful, and so amazingly neat and tidy too. I believe that if you put people in attractive environments – which are human in scale – people will take pride in their communities. Well, most people anyway – best not to be too optimistic.

Caroline T-Bsays:

Bless you Ben for bringing some architectural design and style elements into ordinary lives…I would kill to live anywhere you have left your fingerprints on… If only Boris would make you Minister of Housing Design for the whole of the UK !

Eric Pikesays:

So Gorgeous! Thanks for brightening my NYC morning! Congratulations!


I can’t get enough of this

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, this post clinches it: you have a celestial rainbow machine following you around!

What a lovely place, judt what the world needs more of.


It looks so beautiful. Planning and design at its absolute best!!

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