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Tigh na Boireach, Isle of North Uist

A Category C Listed Building in Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 57.6591 / 57°39'32"N

Longitude: -7.2456 / 7°14'44"W

OS Eastings: 87272

OS Northings: 875352

OS Grid: NF872753

Mapcode National: GBR 88HG.XR5

Mapcode Global: WGW2Z.NRXC

Plus Code: 9C9JMQ53+JQ

Entry Name: Tigh na Boireach, Isle of North Uist

Listing Name: Tigh Na Boireach, 4 Clachan Shannda, Loch nam Madadh, Uibhist a Tuath / Tigh na Boireach, 4 Clachan Sands, Lochmaddy, Isle of North Uist

Listing Date: 15 April 2019

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407075

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52491

Building Class: Cultural

Location: North Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath

Parish: North Uist

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


Tigh na Boireach is a single-storey, roughly rectangular-plan, rubble-built Hebridean-type cottage dating to around 1920. The cottage was renovated for use as holiday accommodation in 1995. The cottage has a thatched roof, the battered walls are whitewashed with rounded corners, and the window openings are small and deeply recessed.

The front (southeast) elevation is three bays wide, comprising a central entrance flanked by window openings. It has a timber door with diamond-shaped glazing in the upper part. The northwest wall has two window openings, and the southwest wall has a single window opening. The northeast wall has no openings.

The windows are timber sash and case frames. The building has end chimney stacks topped with replacement clay pots with built-in flue vents.

The piended roof is thatched in marram grass and has a continuous thatched marram grass ridge. The entire roof has been netted with a large-gauge netting. The netting is weighted along the eaves with stones and bricks tied to the netting with string. The string of stones continues around the chimney stacks at either end. The construction of the roof is in the Uist style of thatching with the thatch sitting on the outer wall and the thatch going over the edge.

The interior was seen in 2017. The internal fabric and layout date from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Statement of Interest

Dating from the early 20th century, Tigh na Boireach is an unusually late example of a thatched Hebridean-crofthouse, which demonstrates that the vernacular building tradition survived longer here than in other parts of Scotland. It is of a type once prolific across Na h-Eileanan Siar, but is now extremely rare. The building shows traditional construction methods and materials of Na h-Eileanan Siar, including thick, rubble walls and a marram thatched roof with weighting stones and netting.

It is one of only 54 buildings or groups of buildings in Na h-Eileanan Siar that are known to retain an intact thatched roof, and is among a relatively small number of thatched buildings across Scotland. This traditional cottage adds to the built heritage and the historic character of the Uists.

Age and Rarity

A crofting township at Reumisgarry, Clachan Sands, with around seven buildings, appears on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1878, published 1882). Tigh na Boireach first appears on the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map (1968), suggesting it was built in the early 20th century.

Tigh na Boireach was built around the 1920s by Donald McDougall following his family's relocation to Clachan Sands from Boreray. The name of the house translates from Gaelic to mean "the house of the man from Boreray" (Tigh na Boireach). This building is an example of crofting resettlement in the early 20th century and the continuation of Hebridean building traditions. Crofters would often move between islands bringing with them their own local traditions which may have been taken up by existing crofting communities (Tigh na Boireach).

The island of North Uist was sold to Sir John Powlett Orde in 1855 who saw the potential of North Uist for wealthy visitors as a hunting and sporting estate. Since 1469, the island had been owned by the Macdonalds of Sleat. It was bought in 1945 by the Duke of Hamilton, and since 1960 it has been owned by the Granville family (Miers, 2008, p.321).

The use of thatch as a roofing material has a long tradition in Scotland. Thatched buildings are often single storey cottages or crofts and traditionally built, reflecting pre-industrial construction methods and materials. While the practice of thatching had started to recede by the early 20th century, traditional thatched buildings were still being built in the Highlands and Islands, and in a few sparse rural communities on the mainland up until the Second World War in much the same way as they were always built.

The survival of this building type into the 21st century is extremely rare. A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland, published in 2016 by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), found that were only around 200 buildings with thatched roofs in Scotland. Those which retain their traditional vernacular character, including plan form and construction techniques may be of special interest in listing terms. Na h-Eileanan Siar has 80 thatched buildings, of which 19 are on North Uist (SPAB, pp.494-498 and 528-552).

These once prolific traditional thatched buildings are now extremely rare. Tigh na Boireach is a vernacular dwelling built using traditional building methods and materials in the early 20th century. It shows that traditional building craft was in use far longer in Na h-Eileanan Siar than in other parts of Scotland.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interiors of these traditional cottages were often simple. Many of them have been refurbished and historic features no longer survive. The interior of Tigh na Boireach was renovated in 1995 for use as a holiday let.

Plan form

This building has a plan form typical of thatched vernacular buildings of Na h-Eileanan Siar with a narrow-bodied, thick-walled rectangular form. The walls have rounded corners, which is characteristic of this region, to protect against high Atlantic winds.

Tigh na Boireach has no extensions or additions. Its footprint is that of a traditional crofthouse.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Tigh na Boireach has been constructed and renovated using traditional materials and methods that are characteristic of this part of Scotland. The interest of these vernacular buildings is discussed in the Regional Variations section below.

While authenticity of material can be an important factor in assessing the significance of thatched buildings, buildings which have been repaired over time (perhaps with new roofing material or rethatched) can also be listed. The retention of the overall traditional character of vernacular buildings is therefore important in determining their special architectural or historic interest.

The thatch itself has been renewed, as is regularly required, and it was reinstated during renovation using traditional techniques and materials. The roof largely dates from the late 20th century. None of the original driftwood roof structure is known to remain. The survival of Tigh na Boireach, and the nearby Boreray Cottage, is important as it informs our knowledge and understanding of vernacular building traditions of Na h-Eileanan Siar.

The renovations of Tigh na Boireach show how the building has been altered to accommodate changes in needs and living standards. Alterations to the internal layout of Tigh na Boireach do not significantly impact on the overall authentic character of the building.

The overall appearance of Tigh na Boireach is that of a vernacular crofthouse built in the early 20th century, which has been renovated. It retains a number of important features which are characteristic of Na h-Eileanan Siar, including a marram thatched roof with weighting stones and netting, and thick, battered rubble walls. It informs our knowledge and understanding of vernacular building traditions of Na h-Eileanan Siar and its long term use in this part of Scotland.


Clachan Sands is located approximately six miles northwest of Lochmaddy, the largest settlement in North Uist. The location and setting of crofts provides information about changing settlement patterns and agricultural land-use. Tigh na Boireach is closely related to Boreray Cottage, situated further along the road to the west. Donald McDougall's brother built Boreray Cottage around the 1920s (Tigh na Boireach). These two cottages show that some families moved to find work together and adapted to new surroundings.

The immediate setting of Tigh na Boireach is well-retained. Both Tigh na Boireach and Boreray Cottage stand out as traditional buildings in the landscape interspersed by later dwellings and agricultural buildings.

Regional variations

The design and construction of the building, the method of thatching and the thatching material used was a distinctly localised practice. The best examples of local vernacular buildings will normally be listed because together they illustrate the importance of distinctive local and regional traditions.

Traditional thatched cottages of Na h-Eileanan Siar are usually single-storey, low-profile buildings. In the Uists the cottages typically had a room at each end of the building with a small room in the middle. They also typically had a chimney on each end wall. They were shorter than those on Lewis, because the byre was not part of the property but in a separate outbuilding. Tigh na Boireach is a 20th century cottage but continues to follow the traditional arrangement.

The low form, thick battered rubble walls and its rounded thatched roof, with netting and weighting stones is typical of this region in protecting against Atlantic storms and sand blasts. The walls of these vernacular buildings would have been constructed with a central earth and rubble core between stone walls that were built from locally sourced stone gathered from the land. Their thickness ensured that they could support the weight of the roof, reducing the need for timber (which was scarce in the area) in the roof structure to a minimum. The walls are now limewashed but appeared as plain rubble in the 1990s prior to renovation (Tigh na Boireach). This was common to protect the stone against seawater and sand blasts.

Tigh na Boireach shows the Uist-style of cottage with the roof sitting on the outer wall and the thatch hanging slightly over the edge of the wall. This allows rainwater to run off away from the gap between the double wall construction, therefore keeping the loose rubble that sits within the thick walls dry. The roof is in a rounded form, as is common in Na h-Eileanan Siar, to limit the effects of extreme weather conditions, by allowing wind to pass over the structure and reduce the risk of damage.

A wide range of thatching materials have traditionally been used in Na h-Eileanan Siar from randomly placed eel grass, seaweed and straws to directional materials such as rush, marram grass, heather, bracken, broom and iris. The thatch to Tigh na Boireach is marram grass, which would have the traditional material because of its proximity to the machair and fitted according to traditional techniques.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2018).

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