The Hamilton Family approached MILL Architects to help them design and manage the new wedding venue they hoped to create from two adjoining, portal-framed lambing sheds at their farm in West Lothian. Time was of the essence to submit a planning application in order to take advantage of Leader Funding.

We set to work immediately, obtaining the necessary consents and then applying the finer detail to what has become the central belt’s go-to events destination, nestled in the Pentland Hills and overlooking the stunning Harperrig Reservoir.

Blighted by the COVID lockdown, along with the attendant shortage of labour, the Hamiltons became both client and contractor. This evolved into an extremely hands-on project, for everyone involved. Despite initial concerns over the curfew on large gatherings, Cairns Farm Estate emerged from lockdown with block-bookings for up to two years in advance.

Working closely with the family, a design was developed, which is unique to this site, reflective of its agricultural heritage and sustainable in its use of local materials, many of which were sourced on the farm. Stands of Scots Pine and Sycamores, due for felling, were milled on site, carefully stacked and air dried then used for the external cladding and internal finished joinery. Field stones form the base perimeter walls and a new feature rubble wall that separates the Ceremony Room from the events space gives a traditional “barn” feel to the otherwise steel-framed building.

Some stringent planning conditions were imposed, not least of which was a requirement that nearby houses should not be able to hear any sound coming from the venue. Careful choice of cladding materials ensured the necessary acoustic attenuation was achieved, along with a warm interior, heated by ducted warm air.

Foul Drainage disposal proved to be another potential show-stopper. Mains drainage is absent here, so an alternative solution was required.Unusually for west Edinburgh, the ground was TOO porous to use a soakaway, so a large treatment plant was installed to break down the effluent. Fortunately, the site lies close to a large water body and by treating the waste to the high level of purity demanded by SEPA, it was possible to use this as the method of disposal.

The venue offers a Ceremony Room, overlooking the loch, a Function Room for up to 140 guests, first-class catering produced on-site from an extensive kitchen set-up and all with the backdrop of Cairns Hill and the surrounding Pentlands.

Overnight accommodation for up to 24 guests is provided between the stunning Edwardian Farmhouse and six luxury cabins, within a woodland setting beside the venue. The “Keep”, a sumptuous, converted stone barn, is there for the happy couple when their big day is done.

Client: Cairns Farm