The surveyors report is in. Most of the Croft only has about 20cm of soil over lewissian gneiss… we always knew that this was going to be challenging!
Looks like a winter tucked up with gardening books and a planning pad to work out what maritime, salt and acid tolerating plants will make it here.
Preferably those that don’t need soil!
Good thing that we hadn’t been hoping to make this into a lush tropical market garden… we like the idea of a woodland croft to increase the land biodiversity. Alder, willow, hazel, birch, hawthorn… there should be enough types of tree that could cope with these conditions. Edible hedging with sloes, rowan berries and crabapples. A few free range chickens perhaps.
Time to stalk the Woodland Trust sites for advice..
Tucked away on many hillside crofts are delapidated barns still sporting rusty red corrugated iron roofs. They glow red in the sunset and stand out starkly against the green and browns of the moorland and heather.
We have one on our croft, and I love it.
Nature has taken the metal and turned it into a thing of beauty through successive generations of scouring with salt, wind and rain.
Unexpected patches of colour in a wintery landscape.
At last, a trip up to Skye with husband to walk the boundaries of the land and check out tree cover and renovation options for the barn.
The weather was truly Skye – blustery skies and squally showers interspersed with shafts of bright sunshine. It was November, so also cold and windy. We wrapped up warmly.
We spent a couple of hours on the plot, aligning the house plans with the best of the sea views over the Sound of Sleat and working out the best shelter. We’re lucky, as there are already trees on the South Western boundary which provide good shelter from the prevailing winds. We’ll need them…
And there is this beautiful outcrop of what we believe to be Lewisian Gneiss poking out of the moss at the top of the Croft.
An ancient stone. A stone for sitting and thinking, or maybe just watching the world go by.
And it’s the inspiration for the name Stone Croft..
In the deeds to the Croft we found a clause that allows the warriors of Clan MacDonald right of access over the land to the distant Castle Dunscaith.
This is a ruined castle of unknown age, linked by legend in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology as the place where Scathach, a woman warrior and teacher of the art of war, trained the hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat. The Irish name for the fort, Dun Scathiag, was named after her.
There’s not much of it left these days. The castle itself sits on an off-shore rock which rises 40 feet above sea level and there is a gap of 20 feet between the rock and the mainland. The gap was once spanned by a walled, arched bridge with a drawbridge, the pivot holes for which are still visible on the far side. Once on the other side of the drawbridge a door opened to a flight of stairs which led up to the castle.
I’m amused by the idea of medieval kilted warriors striding through our vegetable patch. Hell yeah.
Missives are slowly exchanging between the solicitors, and whilst we wait our thoughts have turned towards who we will commission to help us build our croft house, and some of the designs that we might be interested in (and could afford).
Do we go timber frame and traditional block and render, joining the white, low homes dotted across the flanks of the island like small iced cupcakes? Or do we go for larch cladding, which silvers and blends into the landscape with age?
Do we go for a wood burner, underfloor heating, how green can we be with the build, how much space do we need?
Our evenings after work are filled with sewerage treatment options, the relative insulation properties of SIP and timber, and house plans.
Needless to say it’s all much more expensive than we imagined and will take everything we have. But we hold fast to the dream and have a call in with local architects to talk through the possibilities and practicalities. We will design and build a low impact home that will fit into the land and be easy and cosy to live in.
Our Scottish solicitors have drafted formal offers of purchase on the Croft and the decrofted building plot, and after review with the estate agents this morning will be submitted to the sellers solicitors.
This process is very different to the English way of buying, with solicitors here involved from the very outset. The sellers have verbally accepted our offer but nothing is real under this system until solicitors have formally submitted and accepted written particulars.
This part is a little nail-biting, but I can only hope that if it’s meant to be that it will happen, and that we’ll get over each obstacle as it comes up…
For now it’s a waiting game. Sitting here at the kitchen table with a mug of tea, poring endlessly over the plot plans and the few photos that we have of the land…
This is the beginning of the realisation of a twenty-five year dream to live on the Isle of Skye. We have just started the process of buying a croft on Sleat, in the south of the island, and are hoping to build a life and a home there for the future.
I know that the path to any dream can be fraught with difficulty and disappointment as reality kicks in and life happens, but a dream is a worthwhile thing to hold fast to, and I’ve held onto this for a very long time.
My busy work and home life in France and London over the last twenty years have kept me more than occupied, but throughout that time my little haven of peace and solitude has always been the Isle of Skye.
I used to escape to the island as often as I possibly could, at least once a year but sometimes more when I could squeeze time out of my work schedule. These trips mainly took place in February or March with gales, power cuts, and occasional snow blizzards, but also with glorious skies, open-fired cottages and monumental views over the Atlantic. It provided a small, restful hollow where life ran at a different pace and I could explore my creativity.
This is an island of artists on the edge of the wild. It felt like home, and always has done.
Being able to share this with my partner who, despite recognising the rigours of life on a cold, wet Scottish island is also up for this, is simply the icing on the cake. I simply couldn’t do this without him. Thank you, Universe!
This blog will chronicle the process of buying and setting up our croft, designing and building a house that fits into the rural aesthetic of this amazing place and working through the shape of our new lives there. Welcome along for the journey, and wish us luck. I think we’ll need it ☺️