Crannog Centre Scotland reaches new heights following tragic fire

In the Summer of 2021, The Scottish Crannog Centre, Scotland’s best known Iron Age living museum, suffered a devastating fire. Fast forward three years and with support from the Scottish Government, Perth and Kinross Council, The Gannochy Trust, Scottish and Southern Electricity, Historic Environment Scotland and the wider community, the Crannog has reopened on a new and far larger site, reflecting the centre’s ambitious plans for the future.

The new £ 4 million development at Dalerb on the banks of the River Tay, has seen the construction of seven iron age structures showcasing the different Iron Age architectural styles and technologies, as well as a café, visitor centre, pod museum and car park.

Mike Benson, Managing Director of The Scottish Crannog Centre said:

“Rebuilding the centre has been a community effort with sustainability at its core. We wanted the rebuilding of this national treasure to be something everyone could lend a hand to. The project is the work of a thousand fingerprints and a thousand voices, a true getting together of people from all walks of life to share a vision and achieve a common goal.”

On face value, The Scottish Crannog Centre is a living museum celebrating Scottish Iron Age culture. In reality, it goes much deeper. At its core, the centre is a beacon for social justice, a living, breathing community that provides equal opportunity, celebrates difference within a space where anyone is free to express themselves, contribute and be valued.

The Crannog’s beneficiaries are far and wide, from the thousands of visitors that come to the centre each year, to the staff that work there and the broad range of strategic partners who deliver life changing services through the centre.

Having won multiple employer awards including Promoting Diversity SME Employer of the Year at the Scottish Apprenticeship Award in 2023, The Scottish Crannog Centre has demonstrated they are an exemplary place to work, gain experience and develop skills. The centre currently has four apprentices aged 16-21 working on the build and they are delivering a new National Progression Award (NPA) through the Scottish Qualifications Authority. They are also developing an apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Dun Coilich land trust, with learning provided around customer service, heritage and coppicing.

The work at the centre is wide and varied from delivering living museum experiences showcasing iron age culture to workshops and museum tours for visitors. The staff are also directly involved in the rebuilding the centre, from construction to thatching, dry-stone walling, green woodworking and turf building, skills they would otherwise not have exposure to.

The Scottish Crannog Centre use a sustainable building model, using locally sourced or grown materials where possible. For example, they are working in partnership with Forestry Land Scotland to plant new trees, with plans to use the timber to construct the next generation of structures and buildings.  The model centres on growing partnerships, growing skills, growing the materials, to become a truly self-sustaining community.

Rebecca Davies, leather worker at the Crannog Centre said:

“I found the Crannog Centre very welcoming and I fitted in straight away. Here I have been able to have a go at all sorts of things, which has improved my employability, given me a lot of confidence, and I have found a place to fit. The Scottish Crannog Centre accepts me for myself.”

The Scottish Crannog Centre work closely with four strategic partners – Perthshire Women’s Aid (PWA), Refugee Integration through Language and Arts, Breadalbane Academy and Glasgow Association of Mental Health (GAMH)  – delivering human centred services that make a lasting and positive difference to people’s lives.

Over the past three years, the centre has established a strong relationship with GAMH delivering workshops, skill building, craft and creative workshops, as well as a venue for group visits and team building.

Simon McNeil, Glasgow Association for Mental Health’s Group Team Co-ordinator said:

“In February 2024, we worked with The Scottish Crannog Centre to deliver a range of inspirational workshops to GAMH participants, who were blown away by the attention to detail, the patience and the understanding that the Crannog provides. As always, the warmth and sense of belonging to the extended Crannog community is something that we as a group we will always remember.”

Perthshire Women’s Aid (PWA) have been working with the Crannog for the past two years, with a range of support services delivered to PWA users and staff, from staff respite days, trips out and closed museum days for safe visits to workshops and CV development through the museum. PWA staff and users have been helping with the construction of the new museum at Dalerb, contributing to something they can see and be proud of, combining therapeutic work with history.

Louise Craig, Perthshire Women’s Aid Manager said:

“The work that the team at The Scottish Crannog Centre do is often therapeutic, taking people affected by abuse and trauma out of their own lives, and putting them into a peaceful space, with activities that calm the mind.”

The Scottish Crannog Centre has ambitious and far-reaching plans for the future. In their words, the core mission is to ‘become Scotland’s most sustainable museum, using practices and techniques inspired by the lives of the original Crannog dwellers and their relationship with the environment. To be a national treasure….delivering work that matters, has impact and benefits the diverse community we serve.’

Mike Benson continues:

“We will begin work on the first of three Crannog’s in August and will soon be developing a purpose-built museum housing Iron Age treasures from across the world. Building social housing is also a priority for phase two. There is very little affordable housing available in the region, particularly for young people. Two of our staff members still can’t afford  to buy a home, so they have no choice but to live with their parents. Our social housing will provide a safe and affordable home for staff and our beneficiaries.”

The Crannog has certainly come far since the tragedy in 2021, rebuilding and expanding its infrastructure and services to inspire, educate and improve the lives of generations of people, just as the original crannog communities did over 2000 years ago.