The purpose of this blog is to publish some of our pictures of the Isle of Skye, Scotland. We lay no claim to these being great photographs - they are just pictures of what we see, taken with ordinary compact cameras. We hope you enjoy browsing.

Richard and Sue


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Skye shielings

What's a shieling?

A shieling was a temporary village used mostly by the younger people of a township, who took the community's livestock to to graze on the hills during the summer months when the land around the permanent housing was in use for vegetable production.

Shielings are almost always built below a rocky crag which provides the handy building stone, as well as the possibility of shelter from the worst of the summer storms. They are also always located close to a burn, necessary for a water supply.

Within a shieling, a number of small dwellings were built. Sometimes just a couple of dwellings, up to as many as seventy or even more, but mostly between ten and twenty. The modern day equivalent would be a camp site of tents. The shieling dwellings, today known as huts, consisted of a low, near-circular stone wall with no window, creating a single cell. Double cell huts, with two interconnecting rooms were also built, and are common. The roof would have been of a heather thatch, which would have been renewed each year. But  the stone walls lasted for many years, and indeed, once thatched, some of the currently existing ruins could be habitable today, though most remain as little more than grassy bumps in the moorland. It is also likely that some shieling huts had turf walls, so there is no longer any evidence at all of their existence.

I am not aware of any original stone built shieling huts that are not ruined. However, there are very many ruined sites, some marked on Ordnance Survey maps, but many more that are not. Below, are my photos of just a few of the remains I have come across on the Skye moors and  hills....


  1. You know I have come across these in places and wondered if it had been a dwelling of some kind. Now I know it could well have been

    1. Shielings are very common on Skye and in the Highlands. I believe they may also be found in other parts of Scotland and northern England.