Summer at the shielings

The movement of the village to the hills was quite an event. On the island of Lewis, where the practice continued well into the 20th century, people still speak of it as the highlight of the year.

The men would go up in advance to repair any damage to the huts. The boys would take any animals not still needed at the farm. The youngest boys' job was to collect heather, which "….when packed close; standing right and uppermost within boards, or borders of stone on the beaten clay floors, was good to lie on as a spring mattress and far more fragrant." Campbell, D. (1895-99) in Highland Shielings in the Olden Time.

The women brought the milk cows once everything was prepared. They came carrying bedding, dairy utensils and oatmeal. They would lift their long skirts and tuck them into their belts for the walk up, knitting while they walked.

Away from the village did not mean a holiday; the summer would be spent making cheese and butter and teaching their daughters how to prepare and spin wool for weaving during the winter.

After the fires were lit and a meal eaten, the men returned home. They did not spend the summer at the shielings but back at the township; without the animals to care for they could tend and harvest the crops, and undertake the essential repairs to their houses for the coming winter.