Mary-Ann's cottage is just a few miles from the most northerly point on the UK mainland - Dunnet Head in Caithness. This croft which was built in around 1850 has been preserved as it was lived in by Mary-Ann Calder, who until she was 89 lived in the croft and cooked using peat over an open range fire. The cottage has not changed much since the 1930's or earlier. It is just a short walk from Dwarwick Pier.
It is now owned by the Caithness Heritage Trust who provide guided tours of the cottage from June to September from 2pm to 4.30pm (closed on Mondays). There is a small charge for viewing the croft.
Farming and fishing were the traditional way of making a living in the far north of Scotland in Caithness and people lived a relatively simply way, raising livestock, growing crops such as potatoes, turnips and kale, and from fishing. The crofts often had an animal barn attached to the main house and the animals would be housed in these buildings during the winter months. It was hard work living off the land and while we may have a romantic idea of what it was like it was not an easy life.
People did not work on the sabbath, nor would they have put out washing. In many cases the animals would have been fed just before midnight on the Saturday and again just after midnight on the Sunday. It was a day of rest for the animals and well as the crofter. Today modern life has taken over and life for a crofter is more often or not a 7 day a week business especially during lambing and calving in the early spring.
When you visit Mary-Ann's cottage on a lovely warm sunny day it is easy to be drawn into the romantic idea that crofting was a wonderful way to live, yet in many ways it was a hard life for many crofters who had to try and make a living from the land and to raise food for themselves. Learn what is happening at Mary-Ann's Cottage on Facebook or read about life on the croft by Professor A Fenton.