Following the completion of an eight-year, £4.5M restoration project, the former Grange Free Church has officially re-opened its doors to the public as Above Adventure, an inclusive, welcoming, and fully accessible indoor climbing centre with climbing and bouldering facilities, a café and sensory room.
Images: The exterior of Grange Free Church (left), which is now home to Above Adventure, and an indoor bouldering facility (right) inside the building.
Situated in the Kilmarnock Central Conservation Area, the Grange Free Church was designed by Robert Samson Ingram in 1879. The former red sandstone church and the adjoining church hall fell out of use when worship stopped in 2008. Both buildings were later acquired by a private owner for conversion to residential use, however, no development was forthcoming, and the landmark building was deteriorating.
Above Adventure is a charity and social enterprise, which aims to improve the health and well-being of the communities in Kilmarnock and the West of Scotland. In 2015, it recognised Grange Free Church’s potential as an indoor climbing centre and subsequently set about developing the case for regenerating the Category B-listed building.
The state-of-the-art facility now offers a range of climbing options, from walls and equipment to classes and groups, for all levels of ability and accessibility. The centre has modern climbing and safety gear, allowing climbers to enjoy their sport with confidence, whether they prefer bouldering, with low-level equipment and soft mats, or high climbing. Plus, there is also a specially designed sensory room as a quiet space and a full Changing Places facility.
A bold architectural intervention now allows full use of the main church spaces within, while still retaining key historic features such as the magnificent colourful Good Shepherd stained-glass window from 1896, now conserved and viewable from a variety of vantage points. A modern link building between the two hosts the new entrance and café.
Images: The conserved stained-glass window (left) and the new cafe at Above Adventure (right).
The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is very pleased to have supported this project at multiple stages throughout the years. In 2015, early-stage funding assisted with the cost of a feasibility study. Two project development grants, awarded in 2016 and 2018 respectively, assisted with the cost of design team fees. Further, two separate social investment loan offers totalling over £200,000 helped enable both an initial meanwhile use phase in the church hall, and then to deliver the full large-scale capital project. AHF was also able to introduce the project to other private funders, who then helped with further funding.
To find out more about Above Adventure, please visit: https://aboveadventure.co.uk/
AHF Grant Programmes in Scotland are funded by Historic Environment Scotland and the William Grant Foundation.