30th November is St Andrew’s Day – Scotland’s national day. So to celebrate this day I thought I would share with you four places I have enjoyed visiting in Scotland. Here is the second: the Scottish Crannog Centre on the banks of Loch Tay.
Crannogs are ancient dwellings built out into a lake or loch in the Celtic fringes of the British Isles. They consist of either a small artificial island or a wooden platform raised out of the water, usually supporting a single large hut. In Scotland there over 350 sites that have been identified as crannogs and there are probably many more waiting to be discovered. Most date from the Iron Age – from around 800 BC on into the early centuries of the first millennium AD – though there is some evidence of earlier ones back to the Neolithic and forward as late as the 1700s.
There is a particular concentration of crannog sites around Loch Tay in Perthsire, Scotland, where some 14 have been discovered, and one has been rebuilt as a living history reconstruction and the centre of the Scottish Crannog Centre.
The reconstructed crannog here is a single large hut of Iron Age style on a platform a dozen or so yards from the edge of the loch (the Scottish word for a lake). The platform is held above the level of the loch by wooden piles and is joined to the shore by a narrow walkway, again raised on wooden piles.
Photograph of the reconstructed crannog at Loch Tay (by the author, April 2009)
Visitors look around an introductory exhibition with a film, then are guided out into the reconstructed crannog by a guide in period dress to be shown the interior. Inside there are various items of Iron Age life, including a central hearth with a fire upon a clay base to prevent it from setting light to the wooden structure. Back on to the shore there are several demonstrations of contemporary crafts. On the day I visited, in April 2009, one lady was showing how to start a fire using a fire-drill and a man was demonstrating a treadle-driven lathe for making turned wooden items.
The Crannog Centre is a fascinating place to visit if you have an interest in Scottish history from an era earlier than the medieval castles like Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.
You can find out more about the Scottish Crannog Centre at their website, here.