Renovating the Robin Hood Room

During the winter of 2018-19 we converted the boiler room in the Engineer’s Garage into a secure storage room.


We believe the engineer’s garage was built in the early 1960’s as a place to store and maintain the vehicles that were used by the engineers responsible for the upkeep of the aerial network above Cupar. The building also housed a diesel back up generator and an 11KW electricity sub station. There were 4 giant roller doors for vehicle access. The building was eventually converted into a heated store room with 3 out of the 4 roller door openings being bricked up.

The boiler room housed a Robin Hood General boiler that had been converted to run on kerosene. There is no evidence that the boiler ever ran on coal.

The room itself was in a dire state when we bought the site in 2012. The north wall was covered in green moss, paint was flaking off the walls and the place smelled heavily of kerosene. The door into the room was broken and had been boarded up by the previous owners.

Stripping Out

Our asbestos survey had picked up that the boiler contained asbestos rope, asbestos cement and possible asbestos insulation. For those reasons, the Robin Hood boiler itself was removed and disposed of by our specialist asbestos contractors. I’d have dearly loved to keep it but I have no idea what I would have done with it.

Removal of the kerosene retainer wall.

The kerosene tank was removed by another set of specialist contractors who were able to provide safe disposal certificates so we could achieve our site decontamination certificate. The rest of the pipework, electrical fittings and metal were stripped out by me over a couple of weekends.

The brick wall acting as a bund for the kerosene tank was removed by my eldest son who is most happy when swinging a 10lb sledgehammer!

We also removed the lighting, wiring, plumbing and residual pipe and metalwork from the room.

Lifting the boiler’s plinth

The firebrick plinth that the boiler was sitting on came up relatively easily using a demolition hammer with a broad chisel head, leaving a completely bare room ready for rewiring, filing and painting.


Since we bought Hawklaw in 2012 we have steadily replaced and upgraded the wiring over the entire site. The new garage lighting circuit was waiting just to be brought into the room and the existing external corner lights just needed to be put into conduit and routed around the top of the room.

The new light in the room is a low wattage LED light that responds to both light levels and movement. Technically, the Crabtree toggle switch is redundant, but it’s nice to have something original still in the room.


Before we could decorate, the room needed the holes in the block work filled (eg, where the heating and oil pipes entered and exited the room). I brushed the room, including the ceiling with a stiff brush to remove loose paint then hosed the entire room with water. The entire floor slopes gently to a drain so washing the room caused no water issues.

In all, the room took 4 coats of Dulux Weathershield exterior masonry paint. Exterior metal fittings were painted first with red oxide paint before we painted them over with our trademark ‘Hawklaw Grey’ colour. The concrete floor was filled where required with Blackfriar’s concrete repair mortar and lastly, I painted the floor with two coats of Leyland heavy duty floor paint.

The last thing to do was to find a new door for the room.

Selecting a New Door

As we’ll eventually be living on the East side of the site and this room is the furthest away building we have to the West of the site we wanted to select a secure door for this room. This building also gets the brunt of the Westerly winds so a good quality door with multi point locking and excellent seals was essential. After much searching, we selected a Hormann KSi steel security door

The Hormann KSi steel security door fitted and functioning.

Initially, we thought we wanted an outward opening door as we thought it made sense to have the West wind blow the door against its seal, rather than away from it. We got excellent advice from our door supplier (Oliphant Garage Doors, Cupar, Fife) who assured us that this door would not have any issues with leaking and so far, we’ve been more than happy with it.

The room was without an effective door for nearly eight years so we were very happy to have this fitted and have a functional room once again.

Finishing and Furnishing

We finished the renovation in late January 2019, but didn’t actually get the door fitted until August 2019. It wasn’t long before we’d fully furnished the room with the neatly catalogued contents of our attic.

In all, the renovations cost in the region of £2,500 (including the door) and took me most of my 2018/19 Christmas holidays and a few additional weekends to complete.

Progress Report

We were granted full planning permission for the site in October 2016.  Since then, Claire has been spending her time working on the preparations to get building under way.  The expectation was that we could begin the redevelopment around March 2017.  Realistically, we are likely to start in March 2017.  As of today’s date (7th September 2017) we are still waiting for written confirmation from Scottish Water that we can connect in to the sewer (although we have been given verbal permission).  Following that, we still need sign off from building control.  We would expect tenders for the groundworks and replacement fence to go out late 2017, early 2018.  Fingers crossed the first phase of the development (the erection of the chalet on the east side) will be complete around September 2018.

For anyone interested, here is a link to our design statement, which gives more information on the building, at the bottom of this post.

George and Claire

New Proposed Plans Published

19 May 2020 Note this information is now out of date. An updated post on the plans can be found here: 

Following our presentation to Cupar’s Community Council on the 29th April 2014, we are now able to share our plans for the Old Listening Station at Hawklaw.

At long last, we have some real pictures to look at and our strategy for the site is starting to come together. From day 1, we were keen to maintain as much of the site as we possibly could, and to ensure that the previous secrets of the station gained their rightful place in history. What we have finally settled on is a sympathetic design for the whole site which preserves its look and heritage while ensuring a financially viable home and business which is not over developed.

Our architects (Simpson and Brown, based in Edinburgh) were given a fairly challenging brief. We asked them to design two high quality self catering holiday lets which were both to be self contained and not to impact or overlook any other property.  For the main building, we asked them to retain the front façade (all 65 meters of it) and design a contemporary family home which utilised as many of the existing features of the building as possible.  The plans still need a bit of finesse, but we’re not far away from the final design now.

The inspiration behind the putting green was the desire for the holiday lets to appeal to the type of holiday maker who might be attracted to the St Andrews golf courses.  Cupar misses a trick on this front as we are well situated to capitalise on the overspill from that world famous holiday destination.  Our thoughts now are that appealing only to golfers might narrow our potential market a bit, however, a nicely landscaped garden, doubling as a putting green seemed a sensible compromise.

The plans will no doubt go through a few more iterations, but I doubt there will be any changes to the footprint or heights of the proposed buildings.

The New Hawklaw Blog is Live

After some negotiations, and a little bit of luck, we’ve now managed to secure the domain. It took a while to transfer over, but we’ve got it now and it’s sitting safely with my normal domain registrar.

So now, we can start the process of documenting our progress at this historic site and sharing our experiences with you.