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Scotland Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore


This is a fascinating open air folk museum with over 35 buildings depicting rural life in the Highlands from the 1700s to the mid 1900s. Aultlaire Croft are the only original buildings here and date from the mid C19th. They rare shown representing a working 1930s farm. Buildings in the Middle Village have been brought and reassembled here and include workshops as well as a school, church and houses. The 1700s township is a reconstruction of the small settlement of Easter Raitts, which was on one of the old drove roads above the River Spey. It was used in filming scenes from the TV series Outlandewr.

The large modern wooden buildings by the Aultlaire Croft contain the conservation laboratory as well as many other artefacts and resources

Folk Museum Map.jpg

There is no recommended route around the Folk Museum, although it is generally recommended to work chronologically starting with the township, followed by the buildings in the Middle Village and ending up at Aultlarie Croft.

Allow plenty of time for a visit as there is a lot to see. Unfortunately I only had a couple of hours so it was very much a scamper round and try and see everything, although were still some buildings I missed. You could easily spend at least half a day here.

The guide book is worth buying, not just for the map. but also for information as there are few information boards about the buildings. Entry is free, so please leave a generous donation!


Highland Folk Museum - the Township

Township map.jpg

The 1700s township is 10-15 minutes walk from the entrance and is built among Scots Pine which were planted as a timber crop in the 1920s. it is similar to the native Caledonian Forest that would have covered the area.


Small townships like this were scattered across the Highlands. They had to be self sufficient and their main source of income was raising the small black cattle typical of the area. Transport was non existent and cattle had to be walked to market along ‘drove' roads. Clothes were locally woven from wool. All furniture was handmade and utensils made from wood or horn. Heather was used for thatch as well as making baskets brooms matting and pack pony harness.

The only natural lighting was through the door or the tiny windows. This was supplemented by burning resinous fir candles. (In fact it was so dark inside the buildings, the camera was able to ‘see’ more than my eyes). Fuel was peat gathered from the mountainsides and carried down in a simple wooden wheelbarrow. The fire was never allowed to go out as its continuous heat helped keep the walls and thatch dry, so helping preserve them in good condition.


Tools and equipment were home made, simple but functional.



The small firepit infront of the houses was probably used to dye textiles.


Houses were constructed on a low stone wall foundation. The turf walls above were supported using a cruck timber frame held together by wooden pegs. The horizontal bars gave strength and stability. (An example of the frame can be seen in the Bairn’s Barn. )


Turfs cut from the hillside are laid horizontally above the stone foundations.


The heather thatch is laid over a framework of long thin poles. These can be seen exposed at the end of the Tackman’s House.


The thatch extended almost to the ground, helping keep rain off the walls. An additionallayer of thatch was needed to be added every few years. The ridge was sealed with a layer of turf. There were no chimneys ands smoke from the central hearth escaped through the thatch.



Barn walls were often made from wattle to allow a through draft of air.


Hidden away in the woodland away from the Township are reconstructed summer sheilings used by the women and children when they took the cows up into the hills for the summer.

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Highland Folk Museum - the Township cont...

The Tackman’s House is the largest of the reconstructed buildings. The Tackman was the most important person in the township as he negotiated, collected and paid the rent to the Laird.


Inside, the cruck construction can be clearly seen. The floor is beaten earth and there is a central open heart which not only provided heat but was used for all cooking. Furniture is simple and home made. The family slept in box beds along the wall. Peat used on the fire was stored against the side walls.



At the other end of the building, sharing the same roof, was the cow byre. This had a cobbled floor with a drain.


The Stockman’s Cottage is in front of the Tackman’s Cottgae and has a small stone enclosure which may have housed goats. These were a important source of both milk and meat.


Again this has a central hearth, surrounded by upright stones. Being less wealthy, there is minimal furniture and the bed is a straw mattress on the floor.



There is a separate entrance to the storage barn at the end of the building.


Above the Stocksman’s house is the Cottar’s House. The cottar was a tenant who also cultivated some land.


The large doorway allowed in more light than in the other buildings. Again the floor is beaten earth but there are stone flags to areas of heavy use. Furniture is basic with simple box beds.




The central open hearth had a cast iron griddle hanging from the ceiling.


This also has a small byre at the end of the building.


Behind the Cottar’s House is the Threshing Barn which had wattle walls to allow air through. Oats and bere (a primitive form of barley) were stored here to keep dry. It had two doors that could be left open to provide a through draft to remove the husks when threshing.



At the far end of the Township is the Weaver’s House.


One room contains a large loom which could produce a complex tartan weave. The weaver would trade or sell his cloth for food and other goods.


The smaller second room was the living area with an open fireplace. There are no box beds, but rather two bed platforms .


Also in the woodland area is a small curling pond and hut.

The Ardverikie Estate Sawmill was water powered with a 12’ diameter overshot waterwheel sending power to the main saw. It was in use until the 1950s producing rails, fence posts, boards and firewood for use on the estate. The machinery is original although the building has been recreated.




Highland Folk Museum - Middle Village

Middle Village Map.jpg

Muddle Village key.jpg

The first building coming from the Township is the Joiner’s Workshop which was moved here from Kingussie. The joiner undertook all kinds of woodwork from repairs to machinery and carts to making coffins. Wood and carts were stored under the first floor workshop Next to it is a paint store.



The Clockmaker’s Workshop is a small wooden shed that was built in the back garden by Alick McIntyre, a bicycle salesman and repairer. He was a keen amateur horologist and would made and repaired clocks in his shed.




MacPherson’s Tailor’s Shop came from Newtonmore and he was both a ladies’ and gentleman’s tailor.


The front was the shop with bales of different fabrics, patterns etc.


Behind was the workshop. Fabric was cut out and sewn here. Flat irons were heated on a cast iron stove.



Across the road is is Craig Dhu Tweed Cottage.This was originally used as a summer house but later turned into a shop and workshop.


Tweed was woven to be sold in the shop, along with knitwear, wool and other commercially produced tartan material.


Leanach Church is a small timber and corrugated iron building which could be quickly and cheaply be constructed from a kit. It functioned as a Mission Hall for an isolated community on what was once Culloden Battlefield.

Known as the ‘Green Hut’, Knockbain School was erected in the 1920s and constructed from a timber and corrugated iron kit. It contained a single classroom with cloakroom, toilet and teacher’s room. This was built next to the stone school and was intended for socially deprived children from the Glasgow area who were moved to the Highlands for a better life...



The brightest pupils were sat at the back in the hope they would be less likely to misbehave with those at thew front needing more attention from the teacher.


Highland Folk Museum - Middle Village cont...

The Highland Cottage dates from the 1800s, and marks the transition from the turf houses in the township to a more substantial stone building. It has the same cruck construction and thatch roof. Windows are larger allowing in more light. Animals no longer live under the same roof.



Inside there are two rooms. Both have a stone flag floor and the fireplace is now built against the gable walls with an overhanging lum to help take smoke up the chimney - a definite improvement.

At one end is the living and kitchen area. It is much better furnished and there is even a clock.



The other end is the ‘good’ or ‘best room’ which even has a rug in from of the fire.


There is a small Cart Shed just beyond the cottage.


Across the road is Daluaine Summer House. This was built in the early 1900s and was used during the summer when families rented out their homes to tourists.


It still has its outside toilet.


The inside is furnished as it might have been in the 1950s.


Shinty is regarded as Scotland’s oldest sport and is still popular in the area today. Boleskin Shinty Pavilion was built in the 1930s and had a club room and dressing room with a veranda. There is information about the game and plenty of artefacts inside .


The Blackhouse is a reconstruction of a traditional Blackhouse from the Isle of Lewis, as it might have appeared around 1890.


Long and low with rounded corners, black houses were designed to withstand very strong Atlantic gales. The stone walls had an inner and outer layer of stones with a core of either sand or earth to cut down wind and draughts. The thatch was laid over wood rafters and held down with rope and stones. Steps in the wall gave access to the roof .


Animals and humnans lived under the same roof. To the left of the door is the byre where cattle were kept.


Peat was stored inside against the wall opposite the doorway.


To the right is the living kitchen with an open fireplace. There was no chimney so smoke escaped through the the thatch. Furnishings were very basic although an oil lamp did supply a limited amount of light.



Just beyond the Blackhouse is a small wooden Loom Shed containing a Hattersley hand loom. Lord Leverhulme introduced this on the Isle of Lewis in the early 1900s to try and modernise the hand weaving of Harris tweed. It also allowed the weavers to create more complex patterns. The looms are still used on the island and can be heard clacking away behind croft houses.



The final building in the Middle Village is Lochanhully House which was originally built as a croft house on the Seafield estate, near Boat of Garten in 1922. It was built of planks of pine from the estate and had a corrugated iron roof. The walls were insulated with sawdust and cardboard.

The house is furnished as it might have been in the 1950s although the cast iron range is still the main source of heat in the living room.


There is a small separate kitchenand scullery with an electric cooker in the scullery. This woulod have been preferred during the warm summer months. There was also a bathroom.



The main bedroom has an iron bedstead along with stone hot water bottle, Chamber pot and a small electric fire. There was also a much smaller children’s bedroom with a selection of toys from the 1950s.


Highland Folk Museum - Aultlaire Croft

Aultlarie Map .jpg

Aultlarie Croft key.jpg

Aultlaire is the original name for both the croft and stream which runs through the site. Aultlarie Croft was farmed until the 1980s when the Folk Museum acquired the site, and these are the only original buildings in situ.



There are examples of agricultural tools and machinery around the site.



There is a set of Stachle Stones which formed the base for corn ricks. A wood or metal grid was rested on these.



The corn rick was then built on top of the raised framework, which helped keep the corn dry and ventilated. The 'mushroom' tops of the stones deterred mice and rats from reaching the grain. The top of the rick was covered with rope weighted down with stones.

Stackle .jpg

Two highland cows graze in the field near the croft


Aultlairie Farmhouse is mid to late C19th and is a low stone building set around by trees. It was the family home, although was let out to visitors in the summer months when the family moved into the Tin Cottage. This was a common practice and important extra income.


The room on the right has been recreated as a 1930s living room and, with piano, indicates a certain degree of comfort and wealth.


The room on the left is a small store, referred to as Kirk’s Store, named after the family who owned the croft. Small shops in people’s homes were once common in the Highlands. Not only did they provide an essential service to the community, they were also an additional source of family income.


Attqached to an outside wall of the farmhouse, is the small wooden Glenlivet Post Office, which was moved here in its entirety .



Aultlairie Tin Cottage dates from the 1890s and is still on its original site. Constructed of corrugated iron, (known locally as ‘crinkly tin’) on a wooden framework, it was built by the local joiner. It was used by farm workers but also doubled as a summer house when the main croft house was let out to summer visitors. The large white structure seen on the outside, is a meat safe. They were often lined with tin and placed on the north side of the house to keep perishable food cool and away from vermin.


The scullery area was also used as a summer kitchen and general storage area.


The kitchen living area had an open fire for heating and cooking as well as a bed set behind a curtain in a recess


There was also a best parlour which was lined with varnished boards.


Highland Folk Museum - Aultlaire Croft cont...

The long L shaped stone Steading is the largest building in the croft and has five different working areas.



Through the far right door is the dairy.



Next to it is a cattle byre.


The next area would have been a barn and now contains a large threshing machine.


Round the corner was another cattle byre, but now had an exhibition with a 1940s kitchen and information about rationing. The last area is the stable with room for three horses.


There are two open Cart Sheds.The oldest is the stone wall building with the corrugated iron roof dating from the 1800s. There is a hay loft under the roof. In front is an old mill stone.


The second larger wooden building is more modern and contains farm machinery.


The Smiddy in a wooden shed is from near Kincriag and has been reassembled here. The smiddy would have been the hub of village life. As well as shoeing horses and making and repairing farm equipment including iron rings for cart wheels, the blacksmith was also needed to repair many household items.



With the arrival of the motor car, the role of the blacksmith changed completely and many turned their skills to repairing cars. Next to the smiddy is the Garage.
This was built of corrugated iron and comes from Newtonmore.

The Smokehouse came from Easter Ross and is made from corrugated iron and had a small firebox with an iron door. Fish were hung from hooks in the smoke chamber. Smoke from a slow burning fire of oak chippings was drawn along a flue and up through teh smokehouse floor into the smoke chamber. The conical vent in the roof controlled the draught and volume of smoke.


Coming into Aultlarie Croft from the Middle Village is the Sheep Fank and Shepherd’s Bothy.

The Shepherd’s Bothy dates from around 1900 and came from near Dalwhinnie. It is a simple structure made from old railway sleepers. It provided accommodation for the shepherd during lambing season as well as accommodation for men helping with shearing the summer.


It is very basic with a small living room with a cast iron stove for cooking and a bedroom.



Next to it is the stone walled Sheep Fank. This could be described as a multi-purpose work station. It provided shelter during lambing and also during shearing, dipping and marking the sheep. A series of gates and pens could hold and separate the sheep. They were a common feature of the landscape but most have now fallen into disrepair. This has been rebuilt at the museum.


Sheep Fank.jpg

Next to the Sheep Fank is a Boiler which came from near Laggan. It was used to soften the tarry mixture which was smeared over the fleece to help keep insects away and also provide some protection against the worst winter weather. It could also used to melt the arsenic based sheep dip.


The last building on the croft site is the Railway Halt, a small wooden building near the railway line.


This was originally a signal box from near Ettridge on the railway line between Inverness and Perth. It has been reinterpreted as a rural waiting room and ticket office. Small rural stations served an important role in the movement of goods and livestock.




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