Unique Roundhouse Visitor Attraction For Whithorn

Dumfries and Galloway MP Richard Arkless and South of Scotland MSP Emma Harper visited Whithorn last week to see first hand the completed Iron Age roundhouse which has been constructed as part of a new educational visitor attraction.


ichard Arkless MP, Emma Harper MSP and Tom McFarlane inside the roundhouse
Richard Arkless MP, Emma Harper MSP and Tom McFarlane inside the roundhouse

The ambitious project to recreate a replica roundhouse from around 500 BC, began last year and has been lead by Julia Muir Watt of the Whithorn Trust.  It was inspired by the discovery of a large Iron Age settlement at the Black Loch which was in such a good state of preservation that it was able to act as a 2,500 year old template.


The roundhouse, which is 13 meters in diameter and nine meters high, has been built to show how people lived in Galloway in the fifth century BC.



Commenting on the visit, Richard said:

“I was just so impressed with the completed roundhouse – it felt very real and gave me a unique insight in to what life must have been like for people in the Machars in 500BC.  I am so pleased that Julia was able to drive this project forward so efficiently, and special thanks to Tom McFarlane for his tireless work in leading the team of volunteers who actually built it. Whithorn will soon have a very special new visitor attraction which aside from its historical important may be part of a picture that will attract more visitors to the Machars.’


Richard added : ‘It’s a complicated project involving consents and permissions from many organisations which have all been duly obtained thanks to Julia’s hard work.’


Emma also enjoyed her visit to the roundhouse and said that she was “intrigued by the archaeological information” that she learned from Julia.


She continued:


“I am very interested in the science aspect of the project so I enjoyed hearing about the carbon dating of the original woodwork which led to identifying that the original round house dated to 450 years BCE.


“This replica has been built very accurately, informed by facts obtained from the original site not far away and I am intrigued but not surprised that there was a community of round house dwellers in the Machars, two and a half thousand years ago.


“I look forward to visiting again when the site officially opens and welcome the plans to engage with schools and the wider community. The roundhouse will encourage more visitors to our region and help to support our rural economy”


Commenting on the visit, Julie Muir Watt said:


We’re delighted that the roundhouse is attracting such a degree of interest, even before its opening! It certainly has a special feel, owing to the organic materials used, and when the fire is lit, it’s easy to imagine living there. 


“It’s not often recognised that roundhouses were found on the Whithorn site in the 1980’s and were as much as 11 metres across; nearby at Rispain they dated to the 1st and 2nd Century AD; dating back as far as the Bronze Age, roundhouses were a particularly long-lived form of architecture, well into the Christian era at Whithorn. 


“We are on target to open on 31st March, when the roundhouse will become part of our visitor offering, along with special exhibition of the Whithorn Crozier. I’m pleased to say we have already had interest from groups and societies in visiting and we’re hoping to have a public launch on 1st April.  


Julia continued:


There is a lot to look forward to this year with special events at the roundhouse for the Festival of Museums on 20th and 21st May.  We are also moving ahead fast with the development of the Whithorn Way Pilgrim route from Glasgow and we’re hoping our partner organisations progress well with the new Town Hall development which will include as well as a sports suite, a Pilgrim Walkers Hostel.  Taken all together with activities carries forward by Creative Whithorn Arts Group, we have a coherent, creative and exciting development plan for Whithorn.”


Emma added:


In Visit Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, it is very fitting that Dumfries and Galloway has such a fantastic new visitor attraction which celebrates our local history and brings to life our rich cultural heritage.”






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