The Crannog – durability at the edge of the sea

Lasting Timber and Traditions

Recreating and updating the historic Scottish crannog form of building for the 21st century, this building, created in Mallaig Harbour, needs to withstand the onslaught of the sea during inclement weather. But it also provides a welcoming place of rest, and facilities for visitors to the town.

The crannog is, traditionally, a partially or entirely artificial island in a lake or estuary. They were often free-standing wooden structures.

Main contractor Knoydart Construction was familiar with the high durability of Greenheart, a hardwood from Guyana. They came to Timber Development UK members Gilmour & Aitken for their specialist expertise with this species, and with other durable, sustainable and legally-harvested hardwoods, appropriate to the needs of construction at the sea’s edge.

Greenheart at the Core

Although dense, heavy and difficult to work, Greenheart has a fine texture and is very durable. It also offers long-term carbon storage. The contractor wished to use traditional jointing techniques in keeping with the crannog building tradition, so Gilmour & Aitken facilitated by pre-drilling in advance of the creation of mortise & tenon joints. All flitch beams, connection plates and angle brackets were Greenheart. Eki and Balau were also used internally.

Right timber, Right place

Special Relationship

The architects, Nigel Design of Arisaig, created a sympathetic relationship between the building and its surroundings, respecting and reflecting both historic architecture and Scotland’s ties to boat-building and the sea. Mallaig’s community history was also brought into the design through the use of recycled Pine from Old Mallaig Hall.

Gilmour & Aitken brought their own special relationship to the project: their 40+ year partnership with timber mills in Guyana, which produce their regular shipments of Greenheart. The species is available in large-section sizes which need no preservative treatment and little finishing. One cubic metre of Greenheart shipped to Scotland from Guyana and delivered to site stores 1.6 tonnes of CO2, and that remains stored for the useful lifetime of this distinctly durable species.

Lasting Visitor Facilities

With ever-increasing visitor numbers in the town of Mallaig, The Crannog provides a community hub, bakery and pizzeria, while future plans include a connection to the harbour.

The rustic aesthetic of timber was desired, but also a high degree of durability to cope with visitor numbers in a high-use facility for the town. Durable Balau was chosen for the internal roof structure, items of furniture and
a spiral staircase in the accompanying apartment. Home-grown Larch and Cedar cladding complemented the hardwoods.

TDUK Responsible Purchaser

Greenheart meets the requirements for Category B Evidence in the UK government’s timber procurement policy, and Gilmour & Aitkin’s sourcing also meets EUTR. A TDUK Responsible Purchaser, Gilmour & Aitken undertake rigorous due diligence, including their own additional, stringent checks on the sustainable, legally-harvested hardwoods they import.