Tiree’s Architectural Treasures

Mairi Hedderwick in her illustrated journey ‘An Eye on the Hebrides’ writes, “Tiree is a living architectural museum of croft houses, unique to the Hebrides. It s not just because of the flatness that they are so arresting.” She observes, “Tiree houses can be divided into four categories: thatched, black felters, pudding and plain.” Writing in 1994 edition of her book, Hedderwick sees the beginnings of a fifth category. More than twenty years on from her journey, there is certainly an increasing diversity of architectural styles.

In 1893 Argyll’s County Medical Office wrote about Tiree’s traditional thatched houses, “The dwelling houses of Tiree are of different construction from that of any other part of the County.”  Know as taigh-tugha, these thatched properties are unique to Tiree. With the rounded curves of their roofs and complex pattern of ropes holding the thatch down, the taigh-tugha are distinct from thatched houses both on the mainland and on other islands. The same report concluded, “A Tiree dwelling will stand a hurricane without the least injury. The whistle of the wind is no more heard from within than in the interior of Ben Cruachan … The wind strikes against the wall and shoots over the roof without scarcely touching it.”
Over time the thatch in many instances was replaced by black felt. The next development was the construction of Tiree’s famous and unique ‘Spotty’ or ‘Pudding’ Houses. These distinctive two-storey buildings have a mottled appearance, because only the mortar is painted white, the stones being left unpainted.