Caithness flagstone

Summer Stands & Support

Whilst many people are getting ready to go on holiday or music festivals this summer, the Norse Stone team are getting ready to attend and support some of our local events.

For those following us on Facebook , Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen our posts on Friday and Saturday about attending the Caithness County Show. It’s a local agricultural event that is always well attended not least by the selection of trade stands. It’s not all just tractors here (all though there are quite a few of those!). From clothing to crafts, distillers to hot tubs and this year, Norse Stone!

We came armed with samples, brochures, a display complete with hearth (borrowed from RDI Renewables) and paving layout as well as our popular lego selection and some diggers for all the kids (big and small) who came by to say “hello” on the day. We met lots of people, both old and new, handed out most of our brochure packs and overall had a great day out. Despite a bit of typical Caithness County Show rain, the afternoon stayed dry enough that we didn’t even need towed off the field at the end of the day (another typical Caithness County Show activity!).

Norse Stone stand at Caithness County Show

Norse Stone stand at Caithness County Show

Hearth, stove and paving display

Hearth, stove and paving display

Samples and brochure display

Samples and brochure display

Our attempt at a Lego flagstone wall

Our attempt at a Lego flagstone wall

During the summer months, Caithness is host to a number of wonderful shows and events. Next on the calendar is the Halkirk Highland Games which always takes place on the last Saturday of July. We don’t have a stand at it this year, but we are a proud sponsor and we know some of our team will definitely be attending to enjoy the stalls and watch as the field events unfold. It’s a huge event on everyone’s calendar with competitors travelling from all over the world to compete! Rain or shine, it’s always an enjoyable day out.

Our last event of this summer will be another Highland Games, this time the Mey Highland Games. These games have been transformed in recent years with the inclusion of para events on top of the traditional heavy highland games. It is also a great chance to sneak a look at a royal! HRH, Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, is the chieftain of these games and attends every year to mingle with the crowd and also judges the tug of war event. We will be keeping our fingers crossed that we are able to meet HRH as we attend the games this year with our own stand as well as being sponsors. Who knows, maybe we will be able to convince him to get some Caithness flagstone!

Keep checking our social media for more event updates and news.

Guide To Paving & Patio Design

Most of us have not had a lot of sunny weather yet this Summer however lots of people are still getting their gardens ready to host parties and BBQ’s for when the sunshine does finally arrive. Of course, no garden party is complete without some beautiful paving and a patio to hold the gathering on! To some people, designing outdoor spaces can seem pretty overwhelming but by following our helpful tips below, anyone can create the perfect area to hold their Summer soiree!

 1.       Keep your purpose in mind.
It’s important to never lose sight of the reason you want to build this space. Whether it’s to host big family gatherings or just a quiet space to relax and read a book, always plan for the intended purpose. It is so easy to get swept up in all the amazing design options available.

2.       Picking the perfect place.
You might be restricted to just one place to have a patio or you may have several options, either way, making sure that you get the right patio and paving position will impact on the overall design. Think about what you will most likely use the patio for and whether you want to take advantage of catching the sun, creating a private area, somewhere you can enjoy the views or a combination!

3.       Go large or go small?
Whether you are planning an intimate outdoor retreat or an area for large scale entertaining, the size of your space is key. Make sure there is plenty of room to move around especially if you are adding furniture later.

4.       Create different spaces.
Patios and paving don’t have to create just one space on one level. With a bit of imagination, you can create different zones with split levels and stepped areas and combine them using complimentary elements in each.

5.       Play with shapes.
Traditionally, many patios have been simple square or rectangle areas but sometimes that just doesn’t feel right! Try playing with circles, different angles and odd shapes to create a unique feature.

6.       Go with the flow.
Making sure that people can easily walk around, to and from the area is key to ensuring you will get the most from your patio area. Matching paving is a great way of leading people to your patio and creating a sense of flow and easy circulation.

7.       Think materials.
Like a lot of home improvements, paving and patio is something you will want to get long term use from. So whilst ensuring you have a design you will be happy with for years to come is important, it’s even more important to find a material that you are aesthetically pleased with that will also last the test of time.

8.       Plan, plan and plan some more.
Every tip so far has included some form of planning and we really can’t emphasise this enough. Look and try out every patio position, every paving layout and do your research on your chosen materials. Don’t forget to plan around your intended plantings, furniture and any extras you may want.

9.       Decide on any special details.
Would you like to add a fire feature, some particular furniture or even some built-in planters? Keep your options open but remember to think about the size of space you are building and how much you can fit in.

10.   Keep it practical and set a budget.
Some designs, layouts and materials may look great at first but do they need a lot of maintenance to keep them like that and are you able to put in the extra time? And although keeping in or below budget is always preferred, the initially cheaper options may end up needing replaced sooner than the initially more expensive option leading to the patio having a higher life cost. It is also worth thinking about size of paving as extra wastage means extra cost as does bespoke sizes.

Lots to think about and consider but these tips should keep you on track to creating your ideal space whatever the purpose may be! Some of the reasons our Caithness flagstone is so popular is because it ticks many of these boxes. It is incredibly durable leading to longer life span, it can be cut to any size but we also have stock sizes to suit differing budgets, maintenance is minimal as it is so hard wearing and its natural charm means it is suited to various spaces and styles. If you would like help designing your Caithness flagstone patio and paving, get in touch with our team today!

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

There has been so much going on behind the scenes at Norse Stone but one of the most exciting projects we have been working on is the Facebook sponsored garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower show.

The ‘Beyond the Screen’ garden was designed by award winning landscaper Joe Perkins and celebrates the positive and meaningful impact that social media can have on our lives. The garden has been designed around a coastal theme with the water representing what connects us all globally. Plants have been sourced from around the world to emphasise this idea and in still the connections we all have both on and offline whilst our very own Caithness flagstone has been used to create paving and rock outcrops inspired by Joe’s family holidays on the coast of Spain.

Joe Perkins Design RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

We were lucky enough to have Joe and CED Stone Groups MD, Giles Heap, come up to visit our Lieurary Quarry to meet the team and see our stone up close. Joe and Giles, spent time in our quarry with some of the Norse Stone team hand picking pieces of stone which would meet Joe’s design vision.

I was blown away by the Caithness stone. It has beautiful colours and textures and is very strong meaning we could use it in huge sizes to get the drama needed in the garden.
— Joe Perkins
Norse Stone CED Stone Group Joe Perkins Design RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Once, the pieces were chosen, the Norse Stone team put the rest of Joe’s order together and we sent it down to CED’s Scotland depot in Castlecary where members of The Outdoor Room team joined them to check out the huge slabs of stone. The Outdoor Room are in charge of making Joe’s vision a reality and we can’t wait to see it all finally finished.

As many of you may know, we love our Caithness flagstone but we are also big fans of Lego so some of our team had a go at a mini garden design featuring, of course, Caithness flagstone paving and walls around the water feature. But we think it’s safe to say, we should probably leave the garden designing to the professionals!

rhs chelsea flower show 2019  norse stone lego

The ‘Beyond the Screen’ garden has been a collaborative effort by a number of different businesses and groups and we have been delighted to have played a part in it all. Others who have been involved include Groundwork UK, Bamber Wallis Designs, Deepdale Trees Ltd, Kelways Plants and the Landscaping Consultants to name a few! The garden is now completed and ready for showing to the public from the 21st – 25th of May at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Keep checking back on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for photo’s of the actual garden when we attend later this week.

**UPDATE** - 21/05/2019

They have only gone and awarded Joe Perkins a gold medal for his amazing RHS Chelsea Show garden as well as awarding the Outdoor Room best construction. Well done!!

Getting Into The Community Spirit

The schools are on holiday, daffodils are blossoming and lambs are bouncing merrily round fields whilst the talk of the Easter Bunny and how many eggs he will leave is on every child’s mind! In Caithness, Spring has well and truly arrived with our wide open views and rolling countryside bursting into colour in contrast with their surrounding Caithness flagstone walls and fences which have weathered another winter.

 

If you followed our #MarchMeetTheMaker posts or blog (or even just our social media posts!), you may have seen how much we, at Norse Stone, really do love Caithness. We love our heritage and culture, our dialect and local produce as well as our landscapes and amazing community. A big part of the community spirit in Caithness is down to the supportive businesses in the area and we are so grateful for the support we have been shown that we have decided to give back. But we aren’t doing it alone, oh no! We have teamed up with a fantastic group of local businesses and decided to give back to two of our local charities.

 

All of the following Caithness businesses have joined forces with us to create a wonderful hamper which will be up for grabs via an online raffle on Saturday 27th of April 2019: G S Donn Mechanical Maintenance & Repair, Eye Candy, Caithness Chocolates, Inspired By Caithness, Lindsey Gallacher Studio & Workshop, Shore Seaweed, The Ulbster Arms Hotel, Wolfburn Whisky, KW1CK Deliveries, Dunnet Bay Distillery , Highland Drones and Marks & Pencils. Make sure to check out our social media and the up and coming Facebook event page over the next week where we will post all the photo’s and information on the raffle but for now we will give you a wee sneak peak of the hamper contents.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone

Teaming up with some of our local businesses was the easy part, trying to choose only two local charities to benefit from this raffle was the really tricky part but we finally came to a decision. Our two chosen local charities are the Castlehill Heritage Centre and Balmore SSPCA Rescue Centre.

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The Castlehill Heritage Centre is a real community gem and a must see for any locals or visitors! It has wonderful exhibitions including a journey through time from the early Caithness flagstone industry right up to the present day. Found in the village of Castletown, it is a wonderful visitor experience with changing exhibitions about local history, heritage and biodiversity as well as workshops all year round. The converted farm buildings, which now holds the centres wonderful displays, are immediately adjacent to the old Castlehill flagstone quarry and visitors can explore the area further following the Heritage and Sculpture Trails.

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Most people will have at least heard, if not possibly even visited a SSPCA centre. Balmore is the rescue and rehoming centre for Caithness and Sutherland and is based just a few miles outside of Reay. Having run for over two decades, this small but busy centre has a dedicated team dealing with a range of animals coming from a number of different situations and all with the end goal of being able to rehome animals to their forever homes or release wildlife back to their natural environment. From dogs to cats, guinea pigs to rabbits and hedgehogs to birds of prey, this SSPCA centre does an amazing job for the local community and its animals.

So make sure to check our social media for updates over the coming days and help us give back to the Caithness community by raising money for these two amazing charities. We can’t thank the local businesses who have donated towards the raffle enough as well as the Caithness Voluntary Group for their help in making this happen. If you find yourself with time to spare, make sure to check out these amazing businesses, charities and group!

Burns Blog

Every year on January 25th, celebrations are held all over Scotland to commemorate our national poet, Robert Burns. And, to be fair, it doesn’t stop at Scotland’s borders, tributes are paid across the world in the form of traditional Burns Suppers. If you haven’t experienced a Burns Supper, here are a few things you have missed out on which we think make the ultimate Burns Night celebration.


Set the Scene

Whether a smaller affair at home or a large community event, make sure to set the atmosphere for the night with flashes of tartan. Tableware, sashes, kilts, dresses, hats, jewellery; anything with Scotland’s beloved material is sure to make you and the venue look the part. Feel free to throw in some thistles and lucky white heather in simple vases or bottles to complete the look.

Following Tradition

Particularly at larger Burns Suppers, the tradition of several toasts and speeches with some of Robbie Burns poems and songs laced through typically make up a significant part of any Burns Night. Some choose to stick stringently to it whereas others take a slightly more relaxed approach (we once heard a Burns Night toast done to the tune of ‘the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’!). There is no right or wrong way but we love having even just a small toast or recite a single Burns poem, after all, the night is to celebrate him!

Entertainment

Along with tartan and Burn’s poems, traditional Scottish music plays a huge part in any Burns Night celebrations. From having a solo piper piping in the haggis to a full blown ceilidh band to dance the night away into the wee hours after the meal and toasts are finished, no Burns Supper is complete with out it!

Food & Drink

The final piece to the Burns Supper puzzle, is a hearty meal and a good dram. Ask anyone what you have to eat on Burns night and the answer is always haggis, neeps and tatties (that’s haggis with mashed turnip and mashed potatoes to anyone outside of Scotland!). Often served with oatcakes and a wonderful whisky sauce, there is nothing else like it! It may not be to everyone’s liking though so many Burns Suppers also provide an alternative like mince or sausages with neeps and tatties. Whatever your meal of choice, the traditional beverage to wash it all down is always a Scottish whisky. We are lucky enough to have Old Pulteney whisky on our door step however we are also big fans of the nearby Rock Rose gin, we think either are perfectly acceptable really!

 

However you decide to celebrate Robbie Burns, whether a full on traditional supper complete with ceilidh or a quiet meal at home with just a Burns poem in your mind, we hope you have a wonderful Burns night and would like to leave you with our tribute. As you probably know, Burns was born and lived in Ayrshire however he travelled and saw other parts of Scotland. This inspired some of his writings and, most notably, the Highlands was an area he grew very fond of even leading to the song “My Heart’s in the Highland’s”. As we are based in the Northern Highlands, we decided to show you some of the sights we have near our quarries that may have influenced Scotland’s most famous poet and have our very own managing director, Michael Ronaldson, to thank for the musical accompaniment. Enjoy and have a great Burn’s Night!

Norse Stone's tribute to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns.


 


New Year, New Blog...

It’s the start of a new year and that means new blogs, new social media posts, new opportunities, new orders, new challenges and new design trends, just to name a few! But what does 2019 have in store for designing with natural stone? In one word. Balance.

Designers and customers are mixing things up; concrete table tops with wooden legs, glass walls surrounded by soft furnishings, large natural stone tiles set behind a traditional cast iron roll top bath. Whether small or large contrasts, both create lasting effects to its environment. On a smaller scale, this balance can be seen with fireplace designs. Many think of stone fireplaces as very traditional and even outdated but check out this Norse Stone bespoke order and how you can balance by bringing even the most ancient of materials into a modern home.

Before: Old, dull and in need of updating!

Before: Old, dull and in need of updating!

When you think of modern design usually ideas of clean lines and smooth surfaces come to mind however traditional design is usually full of character and natural imperfections especially in the materials used. So how could you combine these? Originally the customer had a dated gas fire with a matt polished Caithness flagstone hearth, stone surround and scallop edged wooden mantle. The only certainty the customer had decided on was they still wanted a Caithness flagstone hearth.

Work in progress!

Work in progress!

The customer started their fireplace makeover when they accidently stumbled across a stove they really liked and actually based most of the fireplace design around it! The initial plan was to use a Caithness flagstone hearth and mantle with stone surround however the customer decided they wanted more contrast in materials and colours. Once they had settled on an overall design, they began hauling out the existing fire, hearth and surround.

Oak surround with Caithness flagstone slips.

Oak surround with Caithness flagstone slips.

It was decided that because of the new layout, they wanted a new hearth with an entirely new design and different surface finish. After looking through Norse Stone samples, they decided on brushed riven with pencil round edging on the hearth. That’s when the oak surround and mantle came into play with a contrasting coloured back and balanced out with matching Caithness flagstone brushed riven slips inside the oak mantle and upstands. These not only added further textural contrast but also complements the hearth, tying it all together.

Showing off the bespoke hearth shape.

Showing off the bespoke hearth shape.

The shape of the hearth is the focal point! The size and shape of the surround, mantle and slips were designed around the overall appearance of the stove however the hearth was designed to almost mirror the shape of the glazed window on the front of the stove. The window was the design feature that caught the customer’s eye in the first place! By using this bespoke hearth shape to complement the stove, which in turn influenced the final design of the surround and back, all the elements tie together to create a beautifully balanced and truly bespoke piece.

Before and….

Before and….

After - What a transformation!

After - What a transformation!

At the beginning, the customer specified that they wanted to achieve a balance of traditional materials, contrasting textures, different colours and contemporary design with neither intruding on the other and, ultimately, having a unique end result. No small order but with some patience (and drawing up lots of different ideas) the customer thinks the finished design is the perfect balance for them and, most importantly, they were able to make sure that they still had a Caithness flagstone hearth. They even managed to complete the installation in time for Christmas!

All ready for a visit from Santa Claus #festivefireplace

All ready for a visit from Santa Claus #festivefireplace

Of course fireplace design is just one small area of design where balance and contrasts play a vital role. In reality, all areas of interior design require some contrast to add something extra special. Throughout households, buildings and even in exterior or landscaping design projects, natural stone, like our Caithness flagstone, can be used to add textural, material and colour contrasts. How will you use natural stone to create both balance and contrast in 2019?

With the range of finishes available and orders made to each individual customers specifications, get in touch with the Norse Stone team today for your design project.

Trick or Treat...

Have we ever mentioned that our Norse Stone team are a group of amazing multi-talented people? It’s true! They deal with everything from quarrying the stone, running the business, marketing, splitting stone, machining and hand finishing our products all from our own quarries in Caithness. But their talents do not stop at the quarry. Some turn wood, others are keen bike and car enthusiasts, there are musicians, budding photographers, amazing bakers; the list goes on and in the run up to Halloween some of our team got into the “spirit” of the holiday and turned their creative hands and tools to pumpkin carving!

Once they decided on their designs, they had to draw it on their chosen pumpkins and gut them out. Unfortunately some of our team realised they made a big mistake using washable pens to mark out their designs. Next year, they will use something more permanent!

Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving
Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving

Let the carving, BEGIN!

Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving
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After some precision cutting, slashing and slicing, the Norse Stone team produced 4 spooktacular pumpkins.

Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving

What do you think? We will be holding a vote on our Facebook page later today so make sure to check back and let us know which is your favourite fangtastic carving.

We loved changing it up and taking you behind the scenes a bit with this Halloween blog but fear not, we will be leaving the squash behind and focusing our tools back on flagstone for our next blog!

From The Quarry To Your Door...

If you find yourself surrounded by the beautiful landscapes of Caithness whether you are driving round the North Coast 500, on route to Orkney or just here to enjoy the local culture, you may notice something that appears almost everywhere you look. Caithness flagstone.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone

Buildings are clad in it, walkways are paved in it, fireplace hearths are furnished with it and the endless rolling fields that make up the countryside are enclosed by large vertical slabs of it. Caithness flagstone is literally everywhere! Having it everywhere gives the impression that it is an easily accessible material and you could almost be forgiven for thinking so as well but the raw material used to produce these unmistakeable stone products first have to be extracted from the earth below our feet.

Every kind of stone has different properties and that means the extraction processes can have differences from stone to stone as well. Caithness flagstone is extracted from a 3m high bed which is quarried in 16 individual layers. These layers are then split into flagstones, cut to shape and finished to produce Norse Stone’s stunning product range. Sounds straight forward, right?

Recently we have been opening new sections in both our Lieurary and Banniskirk quarries but it’s not as easy as just picking any old spot and lifting the first layer of stone, we have to find the stone and dig down to it first! Reinforcements, in the form of Alan Gows Groundworks, have been on hand to help with this stage. Luckily we already knew where to dig, but it still took a joint effort and 1 week of hard graft to lift 4m of overburden (or top soil) to get down to the first layer of the flag bed.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone

With the flagstone layer now in sight, it’s time for the Norse Stone team to individually extract and sort each layer of stone before it is brought into our workshop and made into the wonderful items you see across our website, social media and brochures. With so many products to choose from that are suitable for a wide range of projects, the only question left is which would you choose?

Home Is Where The Hearth Is

Summer holidays are over, the days are starting to get slightly shorter and some are even considering putting on or turning up the heating!

If you are following our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, you may have seen some of our team recently went to Glasgow and, whilst there, they visited a few of our hearth suppliers and stockists.  So with the seasons getting ready to change from Summer to Autumn, we decided it would be a wonderful time to show off our beautiful hearth range.

A Caithness Flagstone hearth can add so much to any home whether you are looking to add a bit of heritage and traditional or a stylish and contemporary design feature.  As with all of Norse Stone’s products, our hearth range is made using our bespoke design service but we do have some standard shapes including:

Norse Stone Square and Rectangle Caithness Flagstone Hearth

The Square and Rectangle are the most simple and traditional shapes available, these can be combined with inserts to be added inside the fireplace for a stove to be placed on top of. It can be perfectly complemented with a full mantle and surround to a simple but beautiful oak beam.

Norse Stone D Caithness Flagstone Hearth

A stylish alternative to the more traditional hearth shapes, the D hearth combines the practicality of the Rectangle and Square layouts with a modern twist. It can equally be complemented with a surround and mantle or a simple beam above the fire place.

Norse Stone Corner Teardrop Quadrant Caithness Flagstone Hearth

Not all hearths are placed in the centre of a room, a fire or stove placed in the corner can create a subtle but stunning feature. The standard Corner hearths are a more traditional design with clean straight lines leading to a focused front edge. Whereas the Quadrant and Teardrop hearths provide a contemporary corner hearth design with their rounded front edge.

Norse Stone Bespoke Caithness Flagstone Hearth

Although these are our standard shapes, anything is possible. Our bespoke service has given us challenges such as creating full circle hearths, double sided hearths, hearths with no right angles at all and hearths to be made to a specific template provided by the client, to name a few! However the shape of the hearth is not the only important decision to make.

In one of our previous blog posts, we explained our selection of surface finishes and what their recommended uses were. All of them are perfect for hearths and so here is our mini guide.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone Finishes Guide

Now you have all the information you need to design your ideal hearth! Check out our Hearths & Fireplaces page for more photo’s as well as our Hearth Brochure. So whether you are looking to add a feature to your home or become a new stockist, all that remains is to get in touch with the Norse Stone team!

Ready-Made, Made-To-Measure or Bespoke?

Hearths, worktops, flooring, paving and building stone have always been highly sought after products with a vast range of natural and man-made options readily available but what happens when readily available and mass produced just don’t fit? Whether it’s because you have a structure with uneven walls, a boundary at slightly unusual angles or boxed services that cut into your dream kitchen layout, Norse Stone can produce products to your exact requirements.

You might come across three main product descriptions; ready-made, made-to-measure and bespoke. Ready-made are standard designs, shapes and sizes that you buy off the shelf and made-to-measure is the standard design and shape with the option of choosing your sizes although the available sizes can still be limited. So what is the difference then between made-to-measure and bespoke? Bespoke is where almost every aspect of the product can be chosen. Let’s take a hearth as an example, one of our most popular bespoke made products. Each customer can have different requirements whether it is specific dimensions, a different hearth shape, a preferred finish or if cut outs are needed for service connections. With each project as unique and individual as the client themselves, why choose an inadequate “one-size-fits-all” when you could have a bespoke piece made to suit and fit in its surroundings?

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone
Norse Stone Caithness flagstone hearth

Check out this work in progress photographed at our Lieurary quarry. It usually starts off as a simple sketch, more accurate dimensions are then added and, from these, a template can be produced. The optimum stone having been extracted from our own quarry is selected by our expert team and the template is placed on top, ready for cutting to shape.

If you have read our previous blog posts, you may have seen our stone finishes guide, it’s at this point that the chosen finish is applied to the newly cut stone. As a recap, Riven is the natural texture, Brushed Riven is slightly smoother, Antique is just a slight texture, Matt Polished (or Honed) is a smooth surface and High Polished is perfectly smooth with a high sheen. Edge finishes are also added along with optional sealing, oiling and cut outs.

The finished product is a combination of careful planning, thoughtful design and the use of high quality materials, skills and techniques. Using these, the customer can be sure of a stunning end product perfectly suited to their space.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone Hearth
Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone Hearth

But the hearth is just one example that our onsite design team specialise in with bespoke services available across our range of worktops, memorials, flooring, building stone and paving. So when planning your next design project, don’t settle for a simple ready-made or made-to-measure, which won’t do you or your project justice, find out how you can have your perfect product made exactly the way you want!

Get in touch with the Norse Stone team today.