See all stories
3 Sept 2021

Our Glencoe turf house is taking shape

The settled summer weather means the Glencoe turf house team have made real progress over the past few months.

Work to build a replica 17th-century turf house at our visitor centre in Glencoe was finally able to progress this year, after a pandemic-related pause.

Since the spring, a range of talented traditional building-crafts people and volunteers have been helping make up for lost time.

The first stage was to prepare the ground and raise the sturdy timber cruck frame. Completed entirely by hand, this was a task which required a lot of people-power, a hand winch and a gin pole. Our joiner’s craftsmanship was on display, with hundreds of complicated joints all held in place with 3,500 hand-whittled wooden pegs.

Once the wooden structure was solid, a stone base was laid and our green woodworker started to fashion the continuous weave of the wattle walls. These are constructed with 3,000 locally harvested, flexible hazel wands passed in and out of upright posts every 40cm. They provided the ‘creel’ basket-like interior framework.

Following shortly behind our green woodworker, our turf builders began cutting and laying chunky turf blocks to construct the 80cm-thick exterior walls. These blocks are laid in an intricate herringbone pattern to offer maximum strength and stability.

Our mud masons have mixed up a fabulous concoction of Glencoe cow manure, straw and clay to create the ‘daub’ which they applied to an internal partition wall, which divides the building between a living room for the humans and a byre for livestock.

With the walls complete, our carpenter returned to site to begin work on the 185 timber roof cabers, which needed to have the turf walls constructed around them – a rather complicated team effort! Upon this, thin layers of turf divot have been laid as a base to fix the heather thatch to.

Unlike most of the turf house’s building materials, long wiry heather was harvested from the Cairngorms (including from the Trust’s Mar Lodge Estate) specifically for this purpose, as Glencoe was unable to provide a sufficient quantity of material.

The whole build is based around our charity’s historical research and archaeological excavations over the past five years. Trust archaeologists and volunteers undertook a series of archaeological digs investigating long-lost historical townships in the heart of Glencoe at Achtriachtan and Achnacon.

These excavations gave a glimpse into the lives of the people who once made their homes in this world-renowned natural landscape, prior to the event for which the glen is infamous: the Glencoe Massacre of 1692.

The turf house is part of our plan to share these findings in a way that helps our visitors see, hear, feel and breathe a way of life which is difficult to imagine today.

The turf house in numbers

  • 60 tonnes of thick turf for walls
  • 185 roof caber timbers
  • 15 tonnes of thin turf divot
  • 3,500 handmade wooden pegs
  • 25 metres of handmade heather rope
  • 40 tonnes of stone for base walls and floors
  • 6 tonnes of heather
  • 3,000 greenwood wattle ‘wands’

It’s thanks to our generous supporters and donors from all over the world that we’ve made the progress we have so far!

Visitors are enjoying seeing the turf house progress. You can come and see for yourself at our Glencoe Visitor Centre, just off the A82.

Explore Glencoe

Visit now