Iron Age History: Visiting The Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay

Learn about the Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay and discover a piece of iron age history. I had no idea the Iron Age was this developed!

Iron Age History: Visiting a Scottish Crannog

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Our visit to The Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay was entirely accidental. Mike takes university students to Scotland. The kids and I come along, but mostly do our own thing. One weekend, we joined Mike and his students on a day out. They stopped at Loch Tay, donned waterproof gear, and headed out for a few hours kayaking the lake in the rain. The kids were too young to join in, and it was much too rainy to hang out at the edge of the lake waiting for them to come back. The bus driver kindly gave us a lift to the crannog on the other side of the lake, which we thoroughly enjoyed touring. Sometime poor planning is a win!

I only recently realized how similar the crannog we visited in Scotland is to this Apalachee council house that we toured in Florida. Very different time periods, different people, different climates, and different continents, but a similar approach to dwelling construction.

Learning Iron Age History at the Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay

Iron Age building - Scottish Crannog

What Is a Crannog?

A crannog is a partially or entirely artificial island that you’ll find in the lakes, rivers, and estuary waters of Scotland and Ireland. Their design was so successful that they were used as dwellings for over five thousand years, all the way through to the late 1600s or possibly early 1700s!

In the photo above you’ll find a model of an Iron Age crannog. Below you’ll see the inside of the full-size replica crannog that we visited.

Inside an Iron Age Crannog - learning Scotland's Iron Age History

The Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay

The Crannog we visited on Loch Tay in Scotland was built based off of archeological evidence found at the Oakbank Crannog, whose 2500 year old remains remain in Loch Tay. The Loch Tay water is very cold, and that has helped to preserve the artefacts.

Iron Age Sophistication

Iron Age weaving - one technique

I always picture the Iron Age as being a very rudimentary time period. Our visit to the crannog on Loch Tay taught we otherwise.


Do the looms above and below look familiar? They use the same techniques you’ll see in these modern-day looms.

This type of weaving/knitting has been around since the Iron Age. Incredible!

The loom below is similar to this frame loom.

Iron Age weaving

Using Natural Dyes in the Iron Age

Natural dyes used by Celts during Scotland's Iron Age

The Iron Age Celts knew their natural dyes! Roman soldiers admired their ability to make colorful clothing, which was described as being woven in differently colored squares. Sounds like tartan to me!

Iron Age medicinal uses of plants.

Iron Age Celts also understood the medicinal qualities of native herbs.

Using a stick to drill a hole in a rock - Iron Age technology

Iron Age Simple Machines at The Scottish Crannog

The Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay is an amazing place to visit. Besides seeing the full scale model, you get to try your hand at some Iron Age simple machines! In the above photo, Johnny is using a stick to drill a hold in a rock. The Iron Age Celts did this a lot, although we aren’t sure why. Some smaller rocks may have been used as jewelry, but it’s unclear how the larger rocks were used.

Iron Age fire making - learning Scottish history

Emma tried her hand at starting a fire using sticks and rope. She was about as successful as I was when I gave it a go. Iron Age fire making requires some serious muscle power! Our guide was quite impressive:

Have you ever visited The Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay? How much did you know about Iron Age history before reading this post? I learned that the Iron Age was much more sophisticated than I had realized!

Johnny and Emma enjoyed providing the man power for this Iron Age lathe.

Iron Age History: learn about Scottish crannogs

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

5 thoughts on “Iron Age History: Visiting The Scottish Crannog on Loch Tay”

  1. I forget who said it, but we as a society have a tendency towards “chronological snobbery,” the belief that people who lived before us were stupid and less educated that we are today, in reality it’s much like today. There’s the people who are interested and read as much as they have access to, and try to find out more, and there’s the people who are content with the knowledge they currently have.

    1. There are definitely some similarities. We enjoyed visiting Plimouth plantation right before we moved away from Massachusetts; it would be fun to take the kids again now that they are older and will get more out of the visit.

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