A family have started transforming a former north-east school into their dream home – and hope to be living there by the end of the year.
Signs for New Aberdour Primary School have carefully been removed from the side of the building and stacked in what was once a canteen crockery cupboard as the grand redesign gets under way.
And classrooms, some still bearing stickers promoting dental hygiene and wooden metre sticks fixed to the wall, are being cleared out.
Owner Salma Hayat, her husband and two children plan to be living in the soon-to-be south annexe – formerly a classroom for P4 and P5 at the small village school – within six months.
From there, the international project manager and consultant will be able to oversee the major project to turn the rest of the building into their new property.
‘It was like falling in love’
The school near Fraserburgh closed in 2009 and new owner Salma paid £66,000 for it at auction last year.
She is aware that the extensive renovation could prove pretty costly, but for the family it is a labour of love.
Salma said: “We had been looking for a project for a while.
“We do so much international travel, or at least we did before Covid, we wanted somewhere to be our base. A place where the kids will know is home.
“My husband’s family live in the north-east and there’s always something special about coming here.
“When I saw this building was for sale, it was like falling in love.
“I can’t really explain it, it was just a feeling.”
The new owners, who have now been granted planning permission from Aberdeenshire Council, invited us inside for a look around this week:
‘Here, the children will have freedom’
The London-based businesswoman added: “What I like most about Scotland is the people, they are always so nice and warm and welcoming.
“We are really blessed with these kids and here they will have freedom to do what they want, and decide what they want to do with their lives in a safe and friendly environment.”
The family has looked into other school renovation projects for inspiration, but found that most involved old stone buildings rather than the 1960s framework of New Aberdour.
Inspecting the building this week has already had mixed results…
Salma was wowed by the “Scandanavian-style” ceiling on the former nursery, which will become the master bedroom.
But the family were less taken with the discovery that damp had seeped into some parts of the building over winter.
Warm welcome from new north-east neighbours
Guiding us through a corridor lined with kid-height coat pegs, Salma added: “As soon as it was approved by the council last week, we started getting stuck in.
“A gathering of about five neighbours came to greet us the moment we got out of the car.”
Her husband, Joseph, added: “People here have been absolutely lovely.
“One of the neighbours even offered to help clear the garden with his tractor.
“Everyone is happy we aren’t a commercial developer taking over the building, and we want to work with them to make this work.”
Legendary north-east entertainer Robert Lovie was a pupil at the school, and returned to the building later in life to film a song called The Village Where I Went To School.
In the video, he is seen walking through the rooms about to become the Hayat home.
Councillors on the Banff and Buchan Area Committee rubber-stamped the proposals last week.
Planning officer Jim Martin presented the plans to elected members, noting that the dilapidated building looked “far from lovely” in its present state.
The school, which was built in 1960, will now be known as Sfhynx House.
You can check out the changes in the layout, which include transforming classrooms into a master bedroom and gym, by scrolling horizontally on our interactive graphic: