The gorgeous thatched roofs of Scotland’s past

The old Leanach Cottage on Culloden Moor. It is said to date from the time of the Battle of Culloden (1746) and was inhabited until 1912. Today, the building stands next to the Visitor Centre at the battlefield. PIC Wikipedia.
The old Leanach Cottage on Culloden Moor. It is said to date from the time of the Battle of Culloden (1746) and was inhabited until 1912. Today, the building stands next to the Visitor Centre at the battlefield. PIC Wikipedia.
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All 305 of Scotland’s traditional thatched buildings have been recorded for the very first time in a bid to stop them “vanishing off radar”.

From humble croft houses in the Highlands to grand Arts and Crafts villas in Argyll, researchers embarked on the 18-month project to insure the preservation of the buildings for the future.

Old Thatched Cottage, Balephuil, Tiree, is believed to be several hundred years old but has now been fully restored. PIC Contributed.

Old Thatched Cottage, Balephuil, Tiree, is believed to be several hundred years old but has now been fully restored. PIC Contributed.

The field work was carried out by The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings with funding from Historic Environment Scotland.

Thatch was the first roofing material used in Scotland, and the country has one of the most diverse ranges of thatching materials and techniques found in Europe.

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Locally distinctive thatching practices and materials vary due to weather conditions and availability of natural materials.

The Blackhouse, Arnol, Isle of Lewis, sheltered a family and its animals under one roof. It is now a tourist attraction. PIC Historic Environment Scotland

The Blackhouse, Arnol, Isle of Lewis, sheltered a family and its animals under one roof. It is now a tourist attraction. PIC Historic Environment Scotland

Rye, heather, reed, and marram grass are some of the materials used with the building skill continuing up until the start of the 20th century.

However, thatched buildings largely disappeared from the Scottish countryside due to maintenance issues, changes in land use, loss of skills and other roofing materials - such as corrugated iron and slate - becoming widely available.

Colin Tennant, Head of Technical Education and Training at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Thatched buildings are an iconic part of our heritage and Scotland’s wider historic environment, particularly in our rural areas. They form a unique part of our diverse built heritage and culture, providing a real insight into the craft skills and traditional practices of our past.”

It is hoped that the findings from A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland will help contribute towards a better understanding of thatch traditions, its survival and protection, whilst promoting the craft skills involved in the process and overall helping to inform the future of thatched building conservation in Scotland.

Shetland Crofthouse is included in the first survey of its type on traditional thatched houses in Scotland. PIC www.geograph.co.uk

Shetland Crofthouse is included in the first survey of its type on traditional thatched houses in Scotland. PIC www.geograph.co.uk

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Matthew Slocombe, Director of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, added: “These buildings are quintessentially Scottish and their historic value is immense.

“Yet perhaps because they are humble working structures or perhaps because of the very way they were built - lying low to protect and shield their former occupants – we have allowed them to slowly vanish from the radar. This survey will pay an important part in helping to safeguard and understand these valuable and iconic buildings.”

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