Sounds, speech and songs of the glen brought to life in 17th century replica

National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Archaeologist Derek Alexander (left) Emily Bryce of NTS Glencoe and Professor Hugh Cheape of Sal mor Ostaig toast the opening of the turf house. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

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Sounds of the past are being brought to life in a unique replica 17th-century turf and creel house in Glencoe.

The project 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.

In an official opening event on Thursday June 30, many of those who have played a part in the project so far came together to celebrate its completion and look ahead to its future.

The turf, wattle and thatch structure was built using traditional materials, tools and techniques by a team of skilled craftspeople in 2021.

Visitors to Glencoe National Nature Reserve can explore the turf and creel house for themselves at the National Trust for Scotland’s Glencoe Visitor Centre where its heather-thatched roof and earth walls blend into their mountain backdrop.

While stepping inside to discover the workmanship that has gone into the building, visitors will also be immersed in the sounds of history thanks to an installation that conjures up the sounds, speech and songs of life in the glen 300 years ago.

Developed with the involvement of historians, musicians, local Gaelic speakers and school children, the soundscape comprises more than 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 the cry of 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. Together they create a subtle backdrop of universally recognisable noises alongside overheard Gaelic voices.

The audio installation was designed by creative producer and sound artist Guy Veale, who has worked on numerous National Trust for Scotland projects.

Renowned local Gaelic musicians Iain MacFarlane, Ingrid Henderson and Ewen Henderson, as well as the conservation charity’s Fiona Mackenzie are among those who contributed their voices and instrumental pieces to the project. Young Gaelic speakers from Acharacle Primary School were also recorded to give the babble of children at play.

Emily Bryce, the National Trust for Scotland’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 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.

‘We are incredibly grateful for the support of everyone whose donations have made this project possible and are looking forward to the next stage in its development. This is a work-in-progress and we will continue to work together with local partners to explore ways to make the most of this unique building.’

Historic Environment Scotland has been a key partner in the Glencoe turf and creel house project. It funded two trainees to support the project team while developing their own skills.

As well as the soundscape, visitors can join free daily guided tours around the house as well as watch a new film charting the creel house’s construction in the visitor centre’s cinema.

The Glencoe Turf House project is part of the National Trust for Scotland’s vision to deliver nature, beauty and heritage for everyone. Read more about the strategy at https://www.nts.org.uk/our-work/our-strategy.

For more information on Glencoe National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre visit www.nts.org.uk/glencoe.

Photographs:

NO_F27_Turf House 01: National Trust for Scotland (NTS) archaeologist Derek Alexander, left, Emily Bryce of NTS Glencoe and Professor Hugh Cheape of Sabhal Mor Ostaig toast the opening of the turf house. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

NO_F27_Turf House 02: Piper Ewan Henderson leads the procession to the turf house. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

NO_F27_Turf House 03: Piper Ewan Henderson leads the procession to the turf house. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

NO_F27_Turf House 04: National Trust for Scotland Chief Executive, Philip Long, left, plants a rowan tree outside the house, which by tradition keeps the witches away. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

NO_F27_Turf House 05: Interior of the turf house. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

NO_F27_Turf House 06: Ingrid Henderson, who is the ‘voice’ of the house, and her husband Iain MacFarlane, who played traditional tunes on the opening day. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

NO_F27_Turf House 07: Glencoe Turf and Creel House received a rainbow blessing on opening day. Photograph: Guy Veale of the NTS.