A visit to the Isle of Skye Museum of Island Life provides an opportunity to learn about life on the Isle of Skye.
Life on the Isle of Skye
The 19th century Highland crofting village shows how crofters lived on the Isle of Skye 100 years ago. Its ideal location at Kilmuir has sweeping views of the seaside cliffs and ocean below.
A croft is a small area of enclosed land, rented or owned and used for farming purposes. It is unique to the Hebrides and other northern Islands and Highlands of Scotland.
The museum contains several buildings to explore.
In the 19th century, crofters and their families lived in a blackhouse. This home provided accommodation for the family at one end and animals in the other end. Crops and grains would often be stored in the house, sometimes up in the rafters.
The crofters built long, narrow single story homes out of local building materials. Rocks for wall construction came from the Highlands. Over thousands of years, retreating glaciers left behind lots of scattered stones. Because trees are scarce on the islands, salvaged wood came from washed up driftwood or shipwrecks from the coastal shores.
The croft’s thatched roof was made from heather and reeds. These materials covered with rope or fishing net are secured and weighted down by large rocks along the edges.
The sturdy walls, made out of boulders, are three to four feet thick. Peat and earth filled in the gaps to help provide some insulation. The houses needed to be strong to withstand the weather and the fierce ocean gales.
Surprisingly, the floors are not dusty, even though made of hard-packed dirt.
Plentiful peat collected from the countryside fueled the fireplace for heat and cooking. In the evenings and on long winter days, family would gather in front of this cozy fire to tell stories, sing songs and listen to music. The music would be played on bagpipes, a fiddle or a Jew’s harp.
The Weaver’s Cottage hosts a fine display of wool-making instruments and antique spinning wheels. Some of these tools date back two hundred years. The old dye-making recipes and dye pots are also on display.
The Crofting Commission noted in 2016-17 that there are 20,566 active crofts. Of that number, 14,898 are tenanted and 5,668 owned.
The numbers have increased from the 17,000 reported in an Independent article of almost 25 years ago.
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