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Sheiling (Mary Catherine's).jpg


The buildings you are seeing are ‘àirighean’ or ‘shielings’, and the villages they stand in are ‘Cuidhsiadar’, ‘Àirigh a’ Bhealaich’ and ‘Filiscleitir’.  For generations shielings were used in the summer months, when crofters, along with their families, would leave their homes in May to graze their cattle on the moor and make butter and cheese for the coming winter.  They would remain on the moor for three or four months. The men would go out first to check the condition of the shielings, to fix any structural damage caused by the harsh winter before the women and children came out.


On ‘Latha na h-Imrich’ (The Day of the Flitting) cèilidhs were held in the evening, with traditional musical instruments such as chanters/bagpipes and melodeons being played, and there would also be storytelling and singing. This practice took place annually right up until World War Two. Only those fit enough to make the long journey with a heavy load on their backs along uneven roads would do so. Consequently, few people died while out on the moor. However, if someone did die, the shieling would never be used again as the islanders were highly superstitious people.


Cuidhsiadar and Àirigh a’ Bhealaich to the west are the last sites of annual moorland migration in Scotland, and some of its shielings are still used today, either as weekend escapes or as a base when cutting peats.

<<< Read more at NatureScot (2 min read)
<<< Listen to recordings of Gaelic stories and songs related to shielings
<<< See more information about the ‘Crofting Calendar’
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