Sunday, 5 January 2020

Why Are All The Buildings White?

This is a question I have been asked a few times by visitors. In fact - not ALL the buildings on Skye are painted white, a few are cream... However, I have to admit, I do not know a definitive answer to  the question.

It is probably mostly to do with tradition. The natural local building material is stone - if it is not ON the surface, bedrock is pretty close the surface almost everywhere on Skye. You don't see any brick-built buildings here. There's no clay to make bricks, and anyway, brick tends to be porous, so would not be ideal for use in the West Highlands weather conditions. So, the earliest dwellings were simply stone-coloured. When lime mortar became available, the stone would be daubed with this, which when dry has a pale grey colour. A limewash might then be applied - making the final finish white(ish) in colour.

Scroll-on to the 20th century, and masonry paint is invented - available in a multitude of colours. A few old buildings in the most famous photo-spots, like Portee harbour, get painted blue, pink and yellow - but everywhere else - we tend to stick to white.

Modern buildings continue the white trend - though almost none are built of stone these days. Since the 1970s, houses here are constructed using a pre-fabricated, pre-insulated timber frame which is then clad with more insulation and covered with concrete blocks,  making a strong outer layer. A cement render is then applied to the blocks, to provide a fully waterproof skin. Invariably, the render is decorated with a few coats of white masonry paint.

Maybe one day it will become fashionable to paint houses here in other colours - but for now, white looks good to me...

Houses of all ages in Glendale - and all painted white!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

First Light 2020

I am just back from taking Cupar out for his first walkies of 2020. We went our regular route, but this morning was unusual for more than the fact that we have now entered a new decade, and more than that we did not see a single moving motor vehicle throughout our half hour on the local main road,

We are quite used to the daylight and weather conditions here being extreme in one way or another. But this morning's dawn was one of the most eerie I have ever experienced. The wind was strong - coming straight in over the sea, and gusting to at least 50mph I would guess. The temperature was probably around 6C. Nothing unusual so far.

No - it was a combination of an extremely low cloud base - certainly no more than 500 feet - and the attempts by the weak winter sunrise to turn night into dawn that led to the unique scene. The cloud was thick and heavy, and covered the entire sky in a surging blanket. In colour, it was a peculiar and indescribable grey-purple. It moved fast, so low overhead I felt if I reached up my hand I would touch it. The dead moorland grasses at the roadside, flattened by the wind, glowed far too brightly in a weird near-fluorescent orange. Other than the buffeting of the wind, there was a complete absence of any sound. It was not raining, but there was a distinct dampness to the air - probably the result of minute droplets of sea-spray suspended in the atmosphere.

It was good to get back to the cosy warmth of the Barn. As the days, weeks and months pass, we will doubtless see many more sunrises, but the curious fist light of 2020 certainly gave the new decade something to live up to.

Happy New Year!