Captain Burt, a government rent collector associated with General Wade, gave a vivid description of pre-improvement Highland dwellings in the early 1700s, both in Inverness and rural settings, providing a number of illustrations as well (Burt 1754). Surviving buildings or parts of buildings from the early post-medieval period are dominated by examples of elite houses, with few other structures surviving from this period.
It is fortunate that in the Highlands a large number of later buildings survive in various states of preservation. Studies of Highland buildings are found in a number of sources including gazetteers and surveys (Stell 1986; Gifford 1992, Beaton 1992; 1994; 1995; 1996; Miers 2008) and publications focussing on specific types of buildings such as farms (Glendinning and Wade Martins 2009), churches (Chapter 10.6), doocots (Beaton 2008) or structures with industrial functions (Chapter 10.5; Hume 1977; Watson and Bruce 2018). The Highland Buildings Historic Trust has been active in recording and repairing a number of key buildings, rural and urban. The Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group provides a context within which to place the Highland material .
The Caithness Redundant Buildings inventory (Wright 2008) is wide ranging and a model for other areas, assessing issues of merit. It noted that the vernacular heritage in Caithness is unique and a diminishing resource that is currently at risk. Some of the building types are unique to the area. The report made 50 detailed recommendations on ways to publicise and promote this heritage. It highlighted the fact that the current legal protections by listing often miss key buildings.
Building materials were varied, including stone and turf, with the latter being far more difficult to discern in surviving evidence (Noble 2003). The experimental work at the Highland Folk Museum has provided valuable insights into the use of turf including the time needed to cut, collect and repair this material (Noble 1983). Documentary sources can also shed light on turf use, for example by showing its use in Nairn-shire into the 1800s (Oram 2011b, 9; Davidson et al 2016). While commonly viewed as a cheap and available building material, work by David Taylor (2019) has shown that even turf was not an inexhaustible source.
Many buildings were constructed using timber crucks (Dixon 2019), with some examples still surviving. Many ruinous stone buildings retain evidence of the slots. Further attention should also be paid to the life span of buildings, and the differing replacement needs of structural elements. Ideally such work should be combined with documentary and environmental analysis showing availability of different species of wood and other organic building materials. In areas without much timber, other materials were needed; at Brotchie’s Steading in Caithness rare whalebone crucks survived (MHG46260; Holden et al 2008; Case Study Brotchie’s Steading).
More research is required to document the size and shape of cruck couples to support the roof, the sources of sawmilled timber, the move from earth or clay mortar to lime mortar and the introduction of new materials such as tar and canvas, corrugated iron, and concrete. There are detailed questions around, for instance, the availability of machine-made windows and doors which could be shipped from the west of Scotland.
The potential for dendrochronology is starting to prove itself, as analysis is providing not only detailed dating for felling, but also information on whether timber was local or imported. Many samples have been taken and stored and are awaiting further technical advances to allow for the dating of samples with fewer rings. Such sampling should take place as a matter of course when old buildings are renovated or excavated.
|Eaderloch Crannog||L||pine||1344–1549 terminus post quem 1550||Native timber||MHG4296; Mills et al 2017|
|Castle Grant||B&S||pine||1393–1512 tpq 1512||Native timber||MHG15426; Mills et al 2017|
|Foulis Castle||ER||pine||1610–1690 tpq 1690||Native timber||MHG8948; Mills et al 2017|
|Wardlaw Mausoleum||ER||pine||1592–1721 tpq 1721||Native timber; crypt hatch boards||MHG39898; Mills et al 2017|
|Killiehuntley Farm Cottage||B&S||pine||1629–1730 felled 1730||Native timber; cruck||MHG18202; Mills et al 2017|
|Off Galmisdale Bay, Eigg||Eigg||oak||1557–1744||Shipwrecked boat; American timber||MHG30701; Crone 2016|
|Storehouse of Foulis||ER||pine||1673–1747 felled 1747||Native timber||MHG8949; Mills et al 2017|
|The Doune, Rothiemurchas||B&S||pine||1479–1745 tpq 1750||Scandinavian timber||MHG15393; Mills et al 2017|
|Fort George||I||pine||1492–1744; 1350-1764||Imported timber (Belarus and Karelia)||MHG15618; Mills 2008|
|Unprovenanced (in Highland Folk Museum)||pine||1558–1771 felled 1771||Native timber;||Mills et al 2017|
|Badden Cottage, Kincraig||B&S||pine||1704–1801 felled 1771, 1801||Native timber; cruck||MHG4425; Mills et al 2017|
|Morilemor Farm, Tomatin||I||pine||1644–1779 felled 1779||Native timber; cruck||MHG16115; Mills et al 2017|
|Aultvaich||ER||pine||1662–1778 felled c. 1800||Native timber; cruck||MHG21643; Mills et al 2017|
|Belladrum Steading||I||pine||1742–1838 tpq 1838||Native timber||MHG15457; Mills et al 2017|
|Killiehuntley Farmhouse||pine||1781–1846 tpq 1846||Native timber||MHG58341; Mills et al 2017|
|MacRobert House, Kingussie||B&S||pine||1724–1848 felled 1849||Native timber||MHG15387; Mills et al 2017|
|96  High St, Grantown-on-Spey||B&S||pine||1775–1852 tpq 1852||Native timber||MHG24793; Mills et al 2017|
Roofing materials varied. Many buildings were thatched, but it is clear there were variations in materials and styles (Noble 2003, 49). Slates were used for more affluent buildings, and flagstones were used in Caithness where the material was readily available. The use and abandonment of pantiles needs further research, with few surviving buildings in the Highlands still having pantile roofs.
10.3.2.1 Rural Buildings
10.3.2.2 Elite and Modern Housing
10.3.2.3 Public Buildings