The shieling huts were made from materials available in the immediate vicinity. They usually had walls made of stone or turf, turf roofs and compacted earth or clay floors. In coastal areas and on the islands rafters would be made from locally collected driftwood. Usually there would be a single doorway, facing away from the prevailing wind (although some shieling huts have two doors opposite each other), and often no windows. Furniture built into shieling huts included stone or turf beds covered with heather, turf seats and cupboards and niches built into the stone wall, often one above the door. Other furniture would be carried out onto the moor for the season. In places where the practice of using shielings continued into the 20th century, shieling huts can be found which are constructed making more extensive use of timber than in the traditional type, along with other materials such as tin and bitumen. There are also examples of buses and caravans used as shieling huts.
The Clearances and ongoing changes in agricultural methods meant that the shieling tradition had generally ended by the close of the nineteenth century. In places it continued for longer and, particularly on Lewis, some shieling huts are still used today during the peat cutting season and as summer retreats.
The remains of shieling huts can be seen as
changes in vegetation: ND1340 : Shieling site by the Allt a' Cheracher ;
shieling mounds where successive shieling huts have been built on the same site: NB5059 : Shieling mounds by the Abhainn Dhail, Isle of Lewis ;
footings: NB5357 : Shieling footings beside the Feadan Mòr, Isle of Lewis ; and
more substantial remains: NB3040 : Shieling above Gleann Leitir, Isle of Lewis .
Examples of modern shielings are shown at:
NB5458 : Shieling, Airigh A' Bhealaich, Isle of Lewis and NB5458 : Disused shieling, Airigh A' Bhealaich, Isle of Lewis .
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