Of Crannogs and Léines
For many readers, Scotland brings visions of brawny heroes in kilts and great stone castles. Not so for a tenth century Highland hero.
Rather than a kilt, he would have dressed in a knee-length léine made of white or unbleached linen or, perhaps, linen dyed saffron yellow. His léine might have been decorated with gold or red embroidery at the neck and cuffs.
To keep out the Highland chill, he’d throw a brat around his body and fasten it at the shoulder with a brooch. Brats were of varying length, depending on the occasion and the rank of the wearer, and were variegated or many-colored, according to ancient accounts. The more colors, the higher our hero’s rank.
And our hero may have lived in a Crannog fortress instead of a stone castle. Crannogs are ancient loch-dwellings found throughout Scotland and Ireland. The remnants of one have also been discovered in Llangorse Lake in Wales. In Scotland, early Crannogs were typically round, timber structures built on a platform in a loch. They were supported by piles or stilts driven into the lochbed. Later, and in more barren environments, rock was piled into the lochbed to make an island on which to build the structure.
His island home would have been divided into several rooms with a hearth in one and a hole in the middle of the thatched roof to allow smoke to escape. It may have had a small jetty connecting it to the shore or a causeway zigzagging below the surface of the loch. Residents would know the pattern of the causeway went, but attackers would not. Crops would have been grown, and cattle grazed, on the shore.
The earliest Crannog in Scotland dates back some 5,000 years. But they were built, modified, and used up until the 17th century, more likely as hunting and fishing stations or holiday residences in the latter years. Today, Crannogs may appear as tree-covered islands in Highland lochs.--Jean