The Western Isles – or There and Back Again V

By Bernie Bell

Houses and Coos – some things don’t change much

The cottage we were staying in, was at Croir, and, being a bit weary on the first day, we didn’t feel like venturing far and so visited nearby Bosta Beach with its remains of an Iron Age village and reconstruction of an Iron Age house.  We had been to Bosta before, when we visited Lewis 5 years ago. Our Trip to the Isle of Lewis 4:Not Just Neolithic

 The Iron Age house reconstruction, has deteriorated badly since then.  The stone weights and ropes which held the thatch, are gone, as is most of the thatch.  The roof is mostly mossy, with patches of black….something.  This is a great shame, as the reconstruction was excellent, and it not only gave a good  idea of what the Iron Age houses would have been like, it also reminds  us that this form of house, didn’t change much , right through to the Blackhouses.

In the Uig Heritage Centre, there is a photograph of a Blackhouse, which was still lived in in 1938, and it looks exactly as the Iron Age reconstruction house at Bosta, used to look. This gives us some idea of how little the way of life for many people changed, through thousands of years. I hope that whoever is responsible for the maintenance of the Iron Age house, will do something to repair it soon, or it will be just another low wall of stones, as are the ‘real’ remnants of the Iron Age village, across the way.

[ Update on the reconstruction Iron Age House after reading Bernie Bell’s article:

Iron Age House re-turfed

As many of you know the condition of the Iron Age House roof at Bosta has suffered over the last couple of years due to the weather and rabbits. As a reconstruction of one of the original Iron Age Houses found at Bosta it is also an experimental archaeological site and one of the areas of research has been the roof. There was no evidence found to show what the roof was made of other than holes in the walls for the support beams, and so over the years since the IAH was constructed different roofing techniques have been tried, firstly thatch and now turf. 

About 5 years ago a layer of turf was laid on the roof using turf dug from the surrounding area of Bosta and the common grazing. This has proven to have been insufficient for the job and by this spring was mostly gone. Having tried to find suitable turf in the area and not being successful the Historical Society decided that we had to import turf from the mainland and lay it over the roof area. This time three to four layers have been applied across the whole area which is hoped will knit together and provide a deeper and longer lasting surface.

We would like to thank the volunteers from the community to helped achieve this task in six hours: Kathanna, Jonathan, John, John, Ian Angus, Callum, Calum, Ken, Ian, Ed, Colin, Sandy.

There was some turf left over and this was laid in the Bosta Cemetery to cover some of the bare patches, while excess compost was given to the Community Poly Tunnels. Bernera Historical Society]

This village was discovered, when something happened which is akin to what happen at Skara Brae, on Orkney.  In 1992 a big storm revealed the remains of a cluster of Iron Age houses, and excavation in 1996 produced some artefacts and evidence of how life may  have been lived here in the Iron Age.

This would have been a good place to live – the sea nearby for fishing,  some patches of reasonable land, and some shelter afforded by the inlet produced by the stream, which would provide fresh water and maybe fish, too.  A stony landscape, and a hard life, but all that was needed, as long as neighbours worked together and helped each other, as is always the case, in any time.

There is a cemetery just up from the beach, which could indicate continued habitation of that particular area, down the years.

On the road by the cemetery, we met these two characters

Highland Cows B Bell

who haven’t changed much through time, either, since they were first mentioned in the 6th Century AD.  These two,  were possibly more friendly than usual, as we arrived at the same time as the farmer with some tubs of extra feed for them. We talked of how the grass is late getting going this year.

Bosta Beach has a strong Lewisian Gneiss vibe

stones on Lewis gneiss B Bell

Related Stories:

The Western Isles – or There and Back Again (I)

The Western Isles – or There and Back Again (II)

The Western Isles – Or There and Back Again III

The Western Isles: Or There And Back Again (IV)


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