Thursday, 4 May 2017

Arnol Blackhouses, Isle of Lewis

These are the blackhouses, situated in a bleak and open area on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They are unique. Built into the land, with earthy banks round them to keep in the warmth and keep out the cold, they have thatched roofs, held down against the wind by rope and heavy stones.

Life inside them would have been dark and cosy. There is some light but the overall impression is of it being a dark living space. Look carefully at the picture above and you'll see the hole in the thatch at the end of each house. This is the window, which was there to let in air as well as light. It shows up on the picture here. Cosiness would have come from the curtained bed set into the wall, in what would have been a bedroom, complete with chamber pot.

In the middle of the separate living area there is an open fire, set directly below another opening in the roof to let out the smoke. When I visited it was gloomy, with very little light, and the room reeked of smoke. Living, cooking, and eating all happened in this room. One section of the house was divided to provide pens for animals, which could be  sheltered inside.


These long houses are are part of the Hebridean heritage. They are kept as they were when in use to give visitors an idea of what life as a small holder husbanding a few animals would have been like.

I can sum up what I think life would have been like in one word. Hard.

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