Above Adventure


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Above Adventure

Architect or lead designer:

John Gilbert Architects

Local Authority Area:

East Ayrshire

Nominating Body:

John Gilbert Architects

Project Description

Above Adventure is a really special project. It has seen a local sports charity take on a derelict, B-listed former church and convert it into a spectacular regional climbing and bouldering centre.

Above Adventure is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) based in Kilmarnock, set up to deliver outdoor sport activities within the local community. The project was established to provide a permanent home for the charity who were operating from Dumfries House and a mobile climbing tower. When the former Grange Church in Kilmarnock was vacated by its congregation, the idea of forming a climbing centre emerged, but took years of dedication and hard work to develop and fund.

The brief for the centre was to provide a ‘regional’ climbing centre, within the confines of the existing church, whilst faithfully conserving the building.

The centre was also to be fully accessible and capable of supporting and encouraging climbers of all abilities. Alongside the core climbing facilities, the centre also features a changing places toilet and a sensory room. Above Adventure now has a new climbing instructor who is a wheelchair user, has undertaken his training at the centre, and has become the first-ever climbing instructor in the UK with his impairment.

With regards to deprivation, the centre is located in an area that is in the lowest 10-20% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, including the lowest 10-20% for employment, health and the lowest 10% for crime. As such, as a centre that provides skills development, training and opportunities; that encourages a healthy lifestyle and brings a unique opportunity to engage in different sports; and provides activities for young people in the evening and encourages a sense of pride in the local areal; the centre sets out to put itself very much at the heart of the community and provide a facility that can benefit everyone in the area.

The site originally consisted of the Victorian church and church hall, with a 1970s block which sat between. The 70s block was cleared away and a new cafe/reception was inserted between the two which also serves to manage the change in levels between the two core elements – the climbing hall located in the former sanctuary, and the bouldering hall in the former hall.

With the centre open Above Adventure now has a home where they can get people of all abilities in the sport, from hosting national competitions through to running beginner sessions for kids. Whilst supporting the wider local economy by increasing the number of visits to the town centre, encouraging visits to the town from outwith Kilmarnock, providing employment and training opportunities, and providing a new sport and health facility in the town to encourage a more active lifestyle.

The client must be highly commended; they set out to deliver a sports and community project, but ended up delivering a really high-quality heritage project at the same time.

Supporting Statement

We’ve nominated this project in recognition of the ambition and dedication of the client to delivering this landmark project:

Community involvement/benefit

During the development of the project extensive community consultation work was undertaken, as well as regular publicity of the project in development and social media updates to give the community the chance to have their say and engage with the project.

Prior to the opening of the centre the nearest facilities for climbing and bouldering in the local area were either in Glasgow (for bouldering), in Cumnock (for a limited climbing wall, where climbing sessions were delivered by Above Adventure), or Above Adventure’s travelling climbing tower.

Therefore the opportunities to engage with the sport in Ayrshire were limited, but Above Adventure was at the heart of trying to drive up community participation for over a decade.

The centre now has two full-time and 12 part-time staff, and has been able to provide training for all as well as six volunteers, in a range of subjects including good governance, climbing instruction and barista training.

Above Adventure is local people who have already been empowered to deliver this project, and they are spreading empowerment through this and their outreach projects. With the support of EAC, it is maximising the physical asset of the church and the immeasurable asset of themselves – identifying and using their skills and strengths.

With the centre now open, it primarily caters to the local community including community groups, kids clubs and school groups. The board remains primarily constituted of trustees who live in East Ayrshire, and the centre is primarily staffed by people from the local area. The majority of beneficiaries are also local to Kilmarnock and East Ayrshire, although the charity is increasingly reaching out to deprived and disadvantaged communities in North and South Ayrshire.

Preservation or enhancement of the local built environment

The Above Adventure set out with the aim of saving the derelict Woodstock St Church and bringing it back into use as a community asset, this was no small undertaking. The building had a failing roof, unstable stonework on the spire and to one of the gables, collapsing plasterwork and rot throughout - it was in exceptionally poor condition. The client committed to the sensitive repair of the building, spending far more of their budget on fabric repair than on climbing equipment to ensure the building was preserved for generations to come.

Whilst internally the client signed up to the idea of having less climbing wall area to be able to restore and celebrate historic features such as the stained glass. Even where alterations had to be made, efforts were made to reuse material elsewhere in the building - such as the cast iron columns from the church balcony which were repurposed to support the roof of the new link building. The result is an adaptive reuse of an important landmark in the community, where the new use is harmoniously incorporated into the existing building.