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Credit - Hazel Smith
Credit - Hazel Smith

Former Grapes Hotel

Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

All Roads Lead to Whithorn Trust

Affordable green homes in the heart of the town centre

Dating back to around 1800, the Grapes Hotel in Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway, has long served the local community as a thriving hotel. However, its decline since the 1950s and subsequent closure in 1990 has left a redundant space within a prominent uniform street frontage. The building was saved from demolition in the 1990s and benefitted from external fabric repairs under a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme in 2009.  

In Whithorn, the high cost of heating traditional buildings has repeatedly seen young families moving away from the town’s historic heart to new housing on the edge of the area. To address the significant demand for affordable homes in the town centre, All Roads Lead to Whithorn Trust have devised a plan to transform the former Grapes Hotel into housing for the Whithorn community.

This project seeks to challenge the link between older buildings and fuel poverty, by using innovative green technology to provide the historic hotel with insulation and a renewable heating system, in the form of air source heat pumps.

While most systems burn fuel, or convert electricity into heat, air source heat pumps use existing heat energy from the outside and bring it into the building. In short, the outside air passes through a network of tubes filled with refrigerant, which warms up and turns from a liquid into a gas; the compressed, hot gases travel to a heat exchanger, where they transfer their warmth to the cool air and water surrounding them, providing heating and hot water that is circulated throughout the building.

Compared to conventional electricity generation, the air source heat pump will save around 2000kg (2 tonnes) of carbon per year.

The Architectural Heritage Fund has supported project development costs at technical design stage with two grants totalling £18,144, helping the project progress to the point that it has secured capital funding offers from the Rural Housing Fund, Scottish Land Fund, Town Centre Capital Fund and Regionwide Benefit Fund (Dumfries & Galloway Council), and Town Centre Living Fund. Total capital costs stand at £539,914, including the price of purchasing the building, meaning that the project is now fully funded.

The restoration of the former Grapes Hotel is a shining example of how historic buildings can find sustainable heating solutions to provide affordable homes for the community, reducing the need for new-builds and migration from the heart of our towns and cities. 


Julia Muir Watt, Secretary of the All Roads Lead to Whithorn Trust, said:

"The Trust was particularly concerned about the high cost of heating the historic buildings in the centre of the Outstanding Conservation Area and the fact that young families tended to migrate to housing schemes outside the town centre for that reason. Using this historic shell building was a chance to prove that retrofitting can elevate the energy performance of a Georgian building up to close to Passivhaus standards. We also know from experts that there's far less embodied carbon in traditional buildings than in new build; they act as a carbon store which we need to preserve and make them viable for local people by careful repair and energy efficiency measures." 

Credit - Hazel Smith

All Roads Lead to Whithorn

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