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Nov 28 2014

Cladh Hallan Roundhouses

When I arrived in Daliburgh on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, I needed to pop to the local Co-op to restock my food supply.  On my way back, I saw a sign for Cladh Hallan Roundhouses.  As someone who tends not to do much research before arriving at a place, I had no idea what it was referring to.  When I got back to the hostel, I did a bit of research on the internet and discovered that it was something I would be interested in.  So, the next morning, I went out in search of the roundhouses and this is what I discovered.

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While it might not look like much, it was a significant find a few years ago because it has provided much needed information about the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age people in the Western Isles.  For that reason, it is this week’s Foto Friday.

It appears that South Uist was first inhabited way back in 2000 BC.  Apparently, nineteen of the sand hills used to be ancient settlements for farmers who used the land for arable farming.  This particular site in the photograph is where a row of ancient terraced houses used to stand.  Three of the sites have been uncovered, while the others remain buried underneath a huge sand dune.

The houses were bigger than previous dwellings.  They have no idea whether it was to fit an extended family, or individuals sharing a house.  Interestingly, during the time these houses were built, they all followed the same method of construction and layout. This was the same throughout Britain and Ireland.  Apparently, they continued the circular theme from monuments built in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age era, which followed the movement of the sun.  Houses in the rest of Europe were rectangular rather than round.

The houses faced the rising sun in the east.  The main areas used during the day, such as the cooking area,  were on the south side, when the sun was high in the sky.  The sleeping area was on the opposite side.  Apparently, each house had a central fireplace.

One rather unusual finding was human and animal remains under the houses.  I say unusual because the human remains were from people who had died 200-300 years before the houses were first built.  That’s a bit of a mystery!

The project, funded by Historic Scotland, involved experts from a number of UK universities between 1989 and 2002.  If you would like more information, take a look here.

Location 

I have marked Daliburgh and the nearest point on the map that I could find to the Cladh Hallan Roundhouses.  As you can see from the map, it’s very close to the beach.  I would definitely recommend walking a few paces more to the beach because you will find one of the fantastic, white, sandy beaches that grace the Western Isles.

Have your say

Are you thinking of visiting South Uist?  Do you have any further information about the Cladh Hallan Roundhouses?  If so, please get in touch.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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