Newtonmore Travel Guide

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Newtonmore Things to Do

  • Drever's Profile Photo

    by Drever Updated Apr 3, 2014

    We stopped at Kingussie overnight while making our way north to the Orkney Isles. In the morning before continuing our journey we visited The Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore. It consists of buildings and contents relocated to the site from various parts of the Highlands. There is the 1930's section with farm, school, crofters house and station and the 1700's section with traditional houses and crafts.

    We were free to enter houses and wander through them. The people dressed in traditional costumes proved happy to chat to adults and children about life in those times, how they lived and how they worked. The site brings history alive.

    The museum stretches for a mile and occupying an area of 80 acres ( 32 hectares). A period-styled bus service links the different elements together, though the best way to explore is on foot but allow 3-5 hours to see it all. Unfortunately we only had two hours to spare so we left quite a lot to explore on a future occasion.

    The museum has three main areas. The central area contains the reception and visitor services. It also houses a collection of traditional buildings, and their contents. The eastern end is home to a farm and a range of agricultural buildings and equipment. At the western end is the highlight of visits, the recreated township of "Baile Gean" as it would have appeared in 1700.

    We headed first to the school, a green building with a red roof built from a corrugated iron kit, which was built in 1925 near Inverness. The school appears as it would have done in 1937 and comes complete with 40 desks, books, maps and the school bell. My wife is a retired teacher so she had plenty to discuss with the guide. He sat at the desk with the familiar leather belt under his hand. Even when I was at school I was asked to hold out my hand several times to receive the stinging force of this brought down with as much force as the teacher could muster. Never in the times I received this punishment had I actually done anything wrong as I had simply got caught up in an incident. Some of the teaches I had should quite frankly have been put in jail for assault.

    We looked into MacPherson's Tailor's Shop. It had a workshop at the back with patterns, piles of cloth, sewing machine, partly made garments and other tools of the trade laid out as they would have been when in operation. Much of the work would have been done by the flickering light from an oil lamp in the winter. Heat was supplied by a coal stove, which also heated the numerous irons used for smoothing the cloth. At the front a shop displayed the finished garments on sale.

    The Joiners' workshop, which dates from 1897 created interest for me, as I have always been good at woodwork and currently run a hobby woodturning business. Much of the visible work here concerned skills needed to supply the requirements of a horse powered age - making wooden wheels and parts for horse drawn vehicles. Using simple tools they managed the most complicated joinery though an early version of a band saw must have been put to considerable use for cutting the curved shapes.

    The Clockmaker's Workshop originally stood in the town of Nairn and was where Alexander McIntyre repaired bicycles and clocks - often with tools he had invented for the job. He was also an avid clock collector and a selection adorns the shelves.

    Further west we entered a wooded area, a relic of commercial timber production in the 1920s. Signs told us to look out for red squirrels but we failed to spot them. We did encountered a traditional Travelling People's Camp - a tent with washing hanging out to dry outside. This serves as a reminder of a way of life common in the 1940s and 1950s but which ceased in the 1970s. Beyond a natural amphitheatre in the woods we came to a replica of the Newtonmore Curling Club hut beside their curling lake. Further on stands a replica of the Ardverikie Estate Sawmill, complete with water wheel and original fixtures and fittings.

    For many, the highlight of a visit to the Highland Folk Museum will be "Baile Gean" Township. This is a traditional Highland crofting village recreated to appear as it would have been in 1700. The tenants’ houses incorporated a byre for cattle. The village also had a weaver’s house and a pigman’s house. The farm buildings include a threshing barn, corn drying kiln and a goat house.

    All the houses, barns and other buildings are built using traditional methods and most are furnished. In the large barn we found a mini cruck frame, which supported the buildings. Full instructions on how to make it were given. A number of tenants’ houses have central peat fires, which were left burning on even the warmest of days, and the township is brought to life by human re-enactors and by livestock wandering around.

    Coming from a crafting community myself I was still surprised at how primitive the houses were. In Orkney where I come from the stone built buildings have on occasion lasted thousands of years. These though were built of mud or a trellis made from tree branches. The roofs were thatched with whatever material was available such as straw or heather. Windows didn’t exist apart from a few openings as glass was unavailable so the interiors were difficult to see.

    We will be back to explore the remainder of the site as we only saw part of it in the two hours we had to spare. It is certainly a place worth visiting to see and explore living history.

    Highland croft house from the 1700s Inside a period estate saw mill Classroom in a 1937 school Period transport bus Post Office
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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