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A Weekend of Adventure

Saturday then. We decided to go and check out the Crannog centre down the end of the loch.

What is a Crannog?

A crannog is an offshore dwelling on a loch, whether completely man-made, or utilising an island as a base. They were often round houses, matching the style of dwelling at the time and the one on Loch Tay is a complete reconstruction based on archeological finds of a crannog near Fearnan.

It is unknown exactly why they were built. Some theories are that they were used to protect people from the wild animals that used to roam in the Highlands. Another suggestion was even as a status symbol! Or … to be closer to the water gods, with offerings to the gods being thrown over the side into the water.

Whatever the reason, they are impressive constructions, and certainly took considerable effort to make.

We had a great tour, seeing various bits and pieces, an indoor exhibit, but the highlight was getting to use some of the old tools for crafting goods.

For example:

  • Tree-sprung, foot powered, lathes! Using the bendy properties of long thin hazel stems, some cord wrapped around a length of wood and a pedal, one can craft some stylish chair legs, or a rolling-pin, or even a bowl!

  • Drill stones! Using a bow, a stick (forced into the stone by a weighted beam), and some fine sand as an abrasive, we made short work of drilling through a stone. We were only at it for five minutes, but had made noticeable progress with this method. Fascinating. The stones, once drilled, had many uses: weights for fishing nets, gate post pivots and small stones were made into jewellery.

  • Grinding flour. We used a saddle stone, so named for the shape it takes after many hours of grinding, and a round grinding stone to pulverise the spelt wheat into flour. We wondered how long you’d have to be at it to have enough flour to make a loaf of bread. Whilst we were pondering that, we needed to get some fire going to cook our imaginary loaf. Cue fire by friction…

  • Using a bow (clearly a useful tool back then) we spun a rod of hazel on top of a prepared plank of pine. The pine had Vs cut out of it and you span the hazel at the edge of the V. Whilst spinning, you applied downward pressure onto the hazel and after 30 seconds or so (longer for Callum) you had some fine smouldering black dust in the V. Carefully remove the plank and let the dust mature into an ember. Whilst letting it gather heat, we made up a fire bowl with fine wood dust, and same wood shavings. Once the ember starts to glow, transfer it to the bowl and blow gently until you have fire! (I got it first time, hence my smile!) Here is a little video of Callum’s third attempt!

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