Replica 17th century turf home offers look into historic Glencoe life

The recreation officially opens following an experimental project to keep alive heritage building skills.

Glencoe replica 17th century turf home opens after project to keep heritage building alive National Trust for Scotland
Lucy Doogan, one of the HES trainees, grew up in Glencoe and can trace her family back to those who lived here at the time of the massacre.

A replica turf and creel house has opened in Glencoe offering visitors a glimpse of how people lived around the time of the 1692 massacre.

Skilled craftspeople began building the turf, wattle and thatch structure using traditional materials, tools and techniques in 2021.

It has the same footprint as one of the late 17th century dwellings excavated by the conservation charity’s archaeologists and volunteers at the former township of Achtriachtan, near the famous ‘Three Sisters’ of Glencoe.

The new National Trust for Scotland (NTS) recreation officially opens following an experimental project to keep alive heritage building skills and share the story of the Glen’s lost homes.

The house has been inspired by years of archaeological investigation and historical research into long-vanished settlements, once home to hundreds of people in the heart of the glen.

(Pic: Paul Campbell)
(Pic: Paul Campbell)

Visitors to Glencoe can now explore the house for themselves at the NTS Glencoe Centre.

Emily Bryce, NTS’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.

“This building now offers a great space in which to immerse visitors from around the world, and the community on our doorstep, in the story of those who made their homes here for centuries.”

While stepping inside to discover the workmanship that has gone into the building, visitors will also be immersed in the sounds of history.

Developed with the involvement of historians, musicians, local Gaelic speakers and school children, the soundscape comprises over 200 different sound elements that were carefully chosen to give the interior an authentic and evocative atmosphere, with each representing a different local story.

Listeners will hear wildlife and livestock, the commotion of construction and daily toil, the chatter of domestic life, and the sounds of socialising at a traditional evening ‘ceilidh’. 

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) funded two trainees to support the project team while developing their own skills – one has been focused on traditional building crafts, while the other has focused on heritage engagement and interpretation.

Lucy Doogan, one of the HES trainees, grew up in Glencoe and can trace her family back to those who lived here at the time of the massacre of 1692.

She said: “It has been fantastic to have the opportunity to be part of this. Our creel house really helps visitors visualise a time when the glen itself would have looked very different to how it does today, home to a bustling community living in wee townships with a rich Gaelic culture.

“I hope we can rekindle this past while creating new stories here in the future.”