With a population of around 770, the Isle of Tiree in the Scottish Inner Hebrides has remained remarkably true to its roots despite its proximity to mainland UK. As of 2001, over 48 per cent of inhabitants spoke Gaelic, while the island is known for its vernacular architecure – adopting readily available resources to address local construction needs, reflecting the environmental, cultural and historical aspects of its surroundings.
Long connected with agriculture, Tiree takes its name from the Gaelic Tir lodh, meaning “land of corn”, from the days of sixth century Celtic missionary St Columba. The island provided grain to the monastic community on the nearby island of Iona, with fertile ground that continues to support traditional crofting.
The most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides, Tiree’s economy is boosted by tourism and is known as a popular windsurfing venue. Regularly hosting the Tiree Wave Classic, the island also played host to the Corona Extra PWA World Cup Finals of 2007. But it’s the traditional – and unique – architecture that Tiree remains famous for, from blackhouses and white houses to spotted houses and pudding houses.
These simple structures, built from local stone and thatch, take their names from their external appearance. White houses are white washed, blackhouses are bare stone, while spotted houses are structures where only the mortar is painted white, giving them a mottled appearance. While the former two are common designs throughout the remote corners of Scotland, spotted houses (pudding houses) remain unique to Tiree.
Tiree Airport owes its relatively large size to its origins as a Second World War heavy bomber base, with one of the original three runways still in use. Other modern ruins across the island include an abandoned RAF Chain Home radar station, while a rotting shipwreck haunts a local beach. Check out more of Scotland’s mysterious islands and abandoned villages.