If you didn’t know the house was there, you would miss it… and we only knew it was there because of a helpful sign. Not just a house, but a small village. Only one of the houses is complete and it stands beside the clearest of streams. It is built of local stone, roofed with living turf and held within the embrace of the hills.
Odd artefacts had been found for many years at Bosta, suggesting that something important might be hidden beneath the shifting sands of the dunes. It was not until 1996 that storms moved the sands enough for the village to reveal itself.
Five houses were excavated, built so that they were half underground, protected by double walls and doorways facing south. With the living turf as their thatch, they would have been hidden from view and, being low to the ground, sheltered too from wind and storm.
Each house had small chambers opening from a central room with a stone hearth at its heart. Above one of these Iron Age, or perhaps Pictish homes, dating from around sixteen hundred years ago, the remains of a Norse house were also discovered with a midden… a rubbish dump… in which were found many small artefacts.
The nature of the terrain meant that all but one of the newly discovered homes had to be backfilled with sand to protect them and at least one of the houses was left completely untouched for future generations of archaeologists to study.
One house, though, has been recreated and can be entered… at least during reasonable hours. Being almost ten o’clock at night, we knew that we were not going to get inside! But we were still able to visit and fall in love with the place.
The padlocked door almost defeated the camera… the pictures I managed to get of the interior were too dark and grainy to share, but you could see that the interior was far more spacious than the outside suggested… and more comfortable too, with stone-lined walls and stone-built furnishings.
We had seen at other prehistoric dwellings that the technology used in these homes was far more sophisticated than it looked. Archaeologists studying the roundhouses of Castell Henllys in Wales, for example, had discovered that the thatch filtered the smoke without need for a chimney-hole in the ceiling.
The smoke rises to linger just above head height in the roundhouses, acting as a natural insecticide and preservative for the thatch… and the occupants might have been glad of that too, keeping bugs to a minimum both on their persons and in their food and clothing.
From our perspective, the place looked warm, cosy and inviting and we would have gladly taken up residence. With clean, running water outside the door, the sea to bathe in and the land and water to provide food, we would lack for little. Apart from anything else, a hobbit house would suit me fine.
Speaking of taking up residence, we wondered about staying the night in the deserted car park. Dawn by the sea would be wonderful and we would have access to both a toilet and a possible cold ‘bath’. Perfect!
So we wandered back along the shore, stopping to marvel at the crystal clarity of the water and the sheer variety and abundance of the types and colours of seaweed in the little stream where it met the sea. But we were not the only ones to have that idea and a rather noisy gathering of campers had parked right beside us. We would have to think again… and it was getting late, in spite of the blue sky still peeping through the clouds. But we did know one spot where we might be able to park for the night…