Sunday, 22 July 2012


One half expects Ian Holm to emerge from one of the "blackhouses" at Arnol in full hobbit regalia, as they have that hobbity look about them. The blackhouses are a traditional form of dwelling with thatched roofs which the inhabitants used to share with their livestock. There was a peat fire permanently on the go in the main living area, but no chimney, so one can only imagine the aroma permeating the living space. Contrary to their name, the structures are not actually black, but more grey, having thick stone walls. The Blackhouse Museum at Arnol offers visitors the chance to wander round inside one of the blackhouses, as well as one of the more recent "white houses", in which life in the 1950s is represented. The move from the blackhouses to the white ones came about largely as a result of "elf and safety" dictating that animals should be kept in a separate space. For once I agree with them.

There are further interesting traditional buildings to visit in the nearby village of Shawbost, location of the Norse Mill and Kiln. The mill once housed around 200 horizontal wheel mills, and was operational until the 1930s. The kiln was probably used to heat and dry the grain that was processed in the mill. Visitors can find out more about local life in the Old School Centre, which as well as serving as a community centre, houses a museum. One of the products Scotland is noted for is Harris tweed, which is handwoven by the islanders of the Outer Hebrides using local wool. A few years ago the industry was given a much-needed boost with the opening of a new mill at Shawbost.

Map of the area.

© 2005 Catherine Morgan, via Wikimedia Commons

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