One of the particular pleasures of a visit to Ullapool is that it has two excellent bookshops. For me, it is impossible to visit either without buying something interesting and unusual. Both shops have an excellent collection of books about the Highlands which go beyond the normal tourist summaries and standard histories. They are the worth the trip.
On my last trip I bought The Highland House Transformed, by Daniel Maudlin. It would be stretching a point to say that this was an important book, but it is certainly interesting and nice piece of scholarship about a subject which I imagine has not been studied before.
The focus is the transformation of Highland dwelling in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. As agricultural improvement came to the fore the new tenant farmers built farmhouses for themselves and cottages for their labourers, and a number of large landowners built planned villages, such as Grantown-on-Spey, Archiestown and Pulteneytown. All of these dwellings – as many dwellings are – were both places to live and statements about the occupants. They expressed their education and civilisation by adherence to classical ideals about about architecture whilst ensuring that the buildings properly reflected their status in the social hierarchy.
The result was a large number of simple, austere farmhouses, balanced and symmetrical but without the adornment which would have been above the station of the occupiers. These buildings are now the standard from of eighteenth and nineteenth century highland dwelling, and as Maudlin shows, spawned a style which was replicated wherever there was large scale highland emigration. Replica buildings, albeit in different materials, are common, for example, in Nova Scotia.
This is an interesting book which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in architecture and the highlands.