The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has recently unveiled a replica 17th-century turf and creel house – based on evidence from recent excavations – at the Glencoe Visitor Centre in the Scottish Highlands.
The cruck-framed building, which has a thatched heather roof and turf and wattle walls, has the same footprint as a late-17th-century dwelling located within the abandoned clachan of Achtriachtan – one of several townships in the glen that were targeted by Scottish government forces in 1692 for links to Clan MacDonald of Glencoe, whose members and associates were infamously massacred for their supposed failure to pledge allegiance to William of Orange (William II in Scotland, William III in England).
Achtriachtan was excavated by NTS archaeologists and volunteers in 2018 and 2019, and, as well as prompting reflections on the area’s bloody history, these investigations also illuminated a way of life practiced in the glen in the 17th and 18th centuries (see CA 378). This project’s findings have now been enhanced by the Trust’s use of experimental archaeology to reconstruct one of the buildings for modern visitors.
The new house was erected by a team of skilled craftspeople using traditional materials, tools, and building techniques. Inside, visitors are greeted by a soundscape designed by Guy Veale (with contributions by local Gaelic speakers and musicians), which contains over 200 elements, including the cries of wildlife and livestock, the noises of daily life and domestic chatter, and the sound of an evening ceilidh.
Emily Bryce, the National Trust for Scotland’s Operations Manager for Glencoe, said, ‘Turf and creel houses were once scattered across the Highlands and are an important part of Scotland’s architectural heritage. They tell us a lot about the communities in pre-Clearance Highland landscapes like Glencoe. While tourists who come here have often heard of the tragic events of the Glencoe Massacre, we want them to go away with an understanding of the lives that were lived here, as well as those that were lost here in 1692.’