Scottish Crannog Fire Wipes Out Recreated Iron Age House in Minutes

Overnight, 5,000 years of design skills that were invested in a recreated Iron Age house at the Scottish Crannog Centre in Perthshire, Scotland, have been engulfed in a fire. One onlooker said the Scottish crannog fire burnt everything to the waterline of the loch “in less than 6 minutes.”

The recreated Iron Age house on the shores of Scotland’s Loch Tay was completely destroyed in the blaze. The Scottish Crannog Centre “was” an important interactive museum of ancient Scottish life, that is until it was hit by a devastating blaze on Friday evening. The center’s website says “it is with a very heavy heart” that the Trust have to report “the devastating news that the iconic reconstruction of an Iron Age crannog at its popular museum and visitor attraction was destroyed by fire late last night.”

The Scottish Crannog Fire Destroyed A Lot But Hope Remains

The famous recreated Iron-Age roundhouse stood on stilts a short distance from the loch shore at Kenmore in Perthshire for the last 25 years. Mike Benson, the director of the Crannog Centre, said CCTV footage showed the fire took hold and destroyed the house in minutes. He said, it was “a devastating blow.” However, he told the BBC that the main thing is nobody had been hurt, “the crannog has gone but it is not the end of the story,” added Mr. Benson.

Mr. John Ward witnessed the blaze, and he told the PA news agency that it was devastating to watch the fire burn the stilt house to the waterline. Mr. Ward told the BBC that he watched it burning and he said it was “lucky the wind was a westerly or it would have done a lot more damage.” Mr. Benson said he had been inundated with support since the incident and said he was “grateful the museum collection is intact.”

A diver holds a Neolithic ca. 3,500 BC Ustan vessel found near an underwater crannog in Loch Arnish, Scotland. (C Murray / Antiquity)

A diver holds a Neolithic ca. 3,500 BC Ustan vessel found near an underwater crannog in Loch Arnish, Scotland. (C Murray / Antiquity)

The Scottish Crannog Centre: An Icon Of Underwater Archaeology

Last year the Scottish Crannog Centre was one of a number of community projects that shared almost 282,000 dollars (233,000 Euros) in funding as part of Scotland’s Year of Coast and Waters.

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said enquiries will be carried out to establish the full circumstances, “though there is nothing at present to suggest the fire is suspicious.” Emotions are running high about this tragic loss and Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, tweeted about the fire saying it was “Simply awful,” and he stated that he was determined to rebuild it.

The crannog reconstruction that was lost in the blaze forms the focal point of the Scottish Crannog Centre that was built by The Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology to “promote the research, recording, preservation and interpretation of Scotland’s underwater heritage .”

And to ask what exactly was lost in this blaze, is the same as asking what is a Crannog? These ancient family loch-dwellings are concentrated throughout Scotland and Ireland, but they have also been found at other sites across Europe.

Visitors to the Scottish Crannog Centre about to “sail” in a rebuilt dugout canoe used by the Iron Age people of Scotland. (Scottish Crannog Centre)

Visitors to the Scottish Crannog Centre about to “sail” in a rebuilt dugout canoe used by the Iron Age people of Scotland. ( Scottish Crannog Centre )

Ancient Natural Materials Are Clearly Susceptible to Fire!

Today, crannogs appear as tree-covered mystical looking islands generally located on lochs, or they remain hidden as submerged stony mounds, that appear on the surface once every few decades during droughts.

The earliest loch dwelling in Scotland is about 5,000 years old and they were used in remote regions right up to the 17th century AD. In Perthshire, prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles or stilts driven into the loch bed. However, at other locations in the highlands several tons of rock were piled onto the loch bed to make an island on which to build stone houses.

The stilthouse destroyed by the Scottish crannog fire first opened to the public in July 1997. And already officials are cooperating to rebuild a new Crannog center to serve Scottish tourists into the 21st century.

Perhaps the new one will adopt a synthetic grass roof to avoid other catastrophic fires in the future. Once a fund has been set up for the rebuilding project, we will post a link on social media so that those of you who feel so inclined can share a few shillings.

Top image: The devastating Scottish crannog fire of June 2021, destroyed a rebuilt crannog stilt home that had been an immensely popular attraction.                 Source: Christine Westerback / Crannog

By Ashley Cowie

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