A SCOTTISH couple are selling what is thought to be the only replica of a traditional Western Isles “blackhouse”.
Margaret Bennett lived in a blackhouse – distinguished by its thatched roof and drystone walls – during childhood holidays to the islands in the 1940s.
When she married Scott and moved to the Isle of Harris to enjoy early retirement, the original blackhouse had fallen into ruins.
So her devoted husband did the next best thing and designed and built an exact replica of a blackhouse from scratch.
Twenty years later the couple have decided to downsize and their blackhouse, which has two bedrooms, a hot tub, and is just yards away of a stunning white sand beach, is on the market for £200,000, a price at the premium end of the island’s property market.
Situated in Scaristavore, just a mile away from the ruins of Margaret’s family house, it is reported to be the first new blackhouse built in Britain since the 19th century.
The traditional island cottages were built with rounded corners, thick stone walls and small windows to withstand the worst of the Hebridean weather.
Used to home both animals and people the buildings were heated with peat fires and were still used in the Western Isles until the 1970s.
But as housing regulation came into play and islanders moved to modern dwellings the blackhouses quickly fell into disrepair – many now just a heap of stones. A few have been restored and are used either as businesses or tourist attractions.
“I used to come back from Glasgow on holiday,” Margaret, 75, explained. “When I was four I stayed in my grandparents blackhouse.
“They were very cosy. They were like little cottages you see.
“By the time we moved back from Edinburgh there blackhouse had vanished. There was just stones left.”
Margaret continued: “I always used to go on about the thatched cottages. I remember me telling Scott all about the blackhouses and how much I loved them.
“He always said he would build me one.”
The Bennett’s new blackhouse was built just 20 years ago to exact specifications and from the outside looks just like the dwelling of the past.
Inside it has been kitted out with all the modern conveniences including underfloor heating in the bathroom.
One other major difference is the chimney. Traditionally the island homes depended on peat smoke to disperse through the thatch.
Scott, 73, a retired structural engineer, explained: “I researched it. They are all the same. We got a dyker from Edinburgh – he was going to repair some walls here.
“We started on the 7th of July 1994 and finished in October 1994. It was a very quick job – four months.
“It is the first blackhouse to be built in the Western Isles in 100 years from scratch.”
Speaking about his wife’s reaction he said: “She felt it was very much as she remembered it. The windows are the same size. She loved it.
“People remark about the quietness of the building and of it being in a special place. In bad weather if feels very cosy.”
He added: “We have had 20 years of letting it. We’re trying to downsize – this is our second retirement.
“We have some reluctance in selling but we’ll be pleased for someone to take it on and look after it too.”