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No mod cons at Moirlanich

Written by Helen Cole - Property Manager/Senior Ranger, Countryside and Islands South
Moirlanich then and now
Moirlanich Longhouse, then and now
Moirlanich Longhouse offers visitors a unique window into a former way of life in rural Perthshire.

As you stand before this historic dwelling within the stunning scenery of Glen Lochay, near Killin, the sense of remoteness and tranquillity is heightened. It’s this sense that demonstrates an important part of the story of how its inhabitants used to make their living from the land.

Built from local materials, mostly stone and timber, the longhouse endures as a virtually intact survivor of a building type once common around Loch Tay and its surrounding glens, despite the changing world around it.

Moirlanich Longhouse on a sunny day surrounded by green fields
Moirlanich Longhouse

Step inside, and be transported back in time – you’ll find no mod cons here! There’s no sink or running water in the house – all water was fetched from a spout at the roadside, which was fed by a spring up the hill – and the toilet can be found across the road outside.

Moirlanich Longhouse kitchen
The kitchen

Inside the kitchen, the heart of this home, you’ll find the ‘hingin’ lum’ (hanging chimney) – a very old form of fireplace that’s now rarely seen. Remarkably, the hood is made mostly of wood and paper. Soot deposits in the room behind the lum remind us how smoky the house would have been, and hints of peat and smoke still hang in the air!

The hingin’ lum (hanging chimney) in Moirlanich Longhouse kitchen
The hingin' lum

Although it may be hard to believe, the family and animals lived under one roof at Moirlanich – the family rooms at one end, the adjoining byre at the other. Wooden partitions, often part of the built-in furniture, divided up the space.

The five box beds within the three rooms, each with curtains to keep out the draughts, would have accommodated the varying numbers of people living there through the generations. At least three generations of the Robertson family lived here, the last of which left in 1968.

Box beds in the parlour
Box beds in the parlour

Like many rural cottages, Moirlanich was wallpapered. Paper was cheap to buy and could be replaced regularly to help keep the house looking clean. Inside the house, you’ll find more than 50 different patterns of wallpaper. In some places, the layers are 23 deep, showing patterns from the 1890s all the way through to the 1950s.

Multiple layers of wallpaper at Moirlanich
Multiple layers of original wallpaper

Whilst the relatively simple construction of longhouses like this meant that they could be easily built, they require regular maintenance or they deteriorate rapidly. The addition of corrugated iron sheeting over the original thatched roof between the wars was intended to reduce the work required to keep the property wind- and watertight. Ongoing conservation of Moirlanich requires regular repointing and lime washing.

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