Cluaran Historical Interpretation Project

Cluaran Log

Summer 2019
A new website is under development and soon we will hopefully have more than just this skippers blog for you to look at!

This summer has a series of events booked, starting with some Iron age interpretation of the only two anchors from that time found in  the Brittish isles. Drostan and Severus will negotiate a deal in Dumfries Museum in May.

We will then navigate out way into the Viking era in Dunstaffnage and Dumbarton. Later in the summer we will remember the treaty of Perth as Gallowglass warriors.

Svenn discusses toy viking boats in a bucket of water

Spring 2019
The School visiting season is getting started. We plan to work closely with Hidden Histories in Dumfries and Galloway this year. This will continue developing the range of eras we cover - connecting people through time as well as space!

The cluaran boat has been inspiring potential vikings already, and the curragh has provided added interest and the opportunity for pupils to think about how structures can provide form to a boat - and turn an animal hide into the skin that keep you afloat.

Look out for us in Dumfries Museum, Oban and closer to home throughout the summer!

Autumjn 2018
We have been back in Annan Museum again. This time digging up evidence and information about one of only two early iron anchors in the British isles. How did it come to be lost in the mud flats of the Solway? Is there a peaceful explanation, was it due to conflict? Will be ever know?

A Roman and a Novantae confront each other

Summer 2018
A quiet summer this year. We worked with Hidden Histories in north west Dumfries. This included a week in Maxwelltown High School, just before it closed and the pupils moved to a new school. We provided a series of curragh building workshops. The pupils worked in groups to make their own mini curraghs, and also with us to skin our 6m curragh. At the time of writing the big boat hasn't been float tested yet, but the pupils tested their building skills with a time trialed build and float of the mini craft.

Spring 2018
The season is starting off with a trip to the "Shire of Caer Caledon Beltain Fair" in St Andrews. This event has been running in St Andrews from before the turn of the millennium. It has won awards for linking the student population with the town residents. It is also a great place to meet up with other Scottish reenactment groups.

Many things start there - so lets see what is in store for Cluaran!

Winter 2017

Time to give another coat of boat soup, carry out a few repairs and check the ropes. While the boat is berthed under cover we can plot and plan schemes to increase the range of people Cluaran can involve, and reach out to more schools especially the Smaller rural ones who can't normally afford visits. A scouting trip to Portsoy has already been accomplished!

Look up the facebook page for some more photos of what we have been doing!

Summer 2017

This summer so a return to Perth for another year beached on the high street. Plenty of interested public, and good weather again!
Dunstaffnage Castle was a long drive, but a row round the castle promontory and the photos of it made the trip worthwhile. Seeking relief from the midges, we retreated to Oban for the evening, overland this time.

Spring 2017
Wordsmithcrafts has been continuing to take the boat round schools, and hundreds of school children have no had the chance to practice rowing and get a fishes eye view of a tradition clinker built boat.

During the run up to Easter we experimented with ash laths and built a scale model for a frame for another Curragh. The scale model is 1:1 scale and if skinned, will make and interesting craft! A lot was learned in the process though, not least how handy it is to have a keel and stem and stern posts.

The boat has been bathed in soup ready for the summer. Progress continues in optimising the oars.

We have bookings for events in Oban, Perth and Dumfries, both on and off the water. We will be attending the Loch Fyne viking festival, but as rowers in other boats (this time).

Summer 2016
Caithness Viking Festival will feature an artistic exploration of a Viking Shipyard thanks to Cluaran. There will be scultural carving, willow ships lines activities, and of course the boat to go fishing in. Have you seen the Herring Dance?

Novantae may disagree with the Selgovae and all Britains might want to raid cattle from the Cruithne Picts - but when the roman empire conducts a "training exersize" on the prominant Hill fort of Burnswalk who will answer for the suffering resulting from a rain of lead shot? Cluaran has been developing it's school visiting role with Wordsmithcrafts and Visiting Vikings to bring the Annan Museum exhibition to life.

Spring 2016
School visiting again! And a trip to on a research trip. At a meeting of EXARC and IMTAL members with Destination Viking a load of new plans are being cooked up for Cluaran. Pict - Monk - Viking - Scot! what links all of them? The Sea.

Winter 2015
The boat is tucked away in a garage with a new roof. Another coat of boat soup and she will be ready for 2016

Summer 2015
Dumfries Museum for the Festival of Museums, Erskine Biker rally with Glasgow Vike, Rowing on Loch Arthur and Lake Windermere. Wood obtained to construct a steer oar and tiller/rudder. Youthbeatz in Dumfries.

Easter 2015
The school visiting season is over now. Time to take a breath! The boat is booked in for the Festival of Museums on May the 16th and work is progressing with Wordsmithcrafts using a combination of volunteers and professionals to make this resource available to primary schools throughout Scotland. We have even had a Norwegian volunteer with us already this year!

Winter 2014
School visiting with the boat went well in Spring this year. Repeat bookings are expected in spring 2015 for George Watson School in Edinburgh as well as various Dumfries schools. The project has shifted from the original intention to build boats, but is doing well in it's mission of raising awareness of the shared tradition of boat building.

Summer 2014
The Boat has been to Thurso and back! A week of setting up and down everyday was tiring, but well worth it. Alex McNeill has taken some amazing photos, and there is even video of us rowing with the Old Man of Hoy in the (distant) background.

January 2014

You can find the project newsletter here

December 2013

Time to give the boat another does of soup to keep it cozy this winter. A newsletter is doing the rounds, so if you are a settler and havn't got one yet , please let us know and we will get it to you. Photos of what we have accomplished can be found on the photos page and there will be a general meeting to decide the future of the project on Sunday the 12th of  January at Wordsmithcrafts Workshop.

August 2013
Things have been quite busy over the summer, and I'm afraid this log hasn't been kept up to date. However, with Largs Viking village just about to happen, here is a summary of what we have achieved so far:

Boat building

Gal Gael Ness Yole repaired and made water ready

Road trailer obtained

6 oars usable, at least 8 more in preparation

Curraghs and coracles researched, one curragh built and available to the project another in process of being built.

Exploration of shared culture

Theme birthday party and fundraising event

(including feast food, clothing, falconry, viking quiz)

Family Open afternoons;
January, March, April, May

Activities explored include, embroidery, natural dyeing (Alison Fair-Bixler), weaving, cooking, shared history timeline, dog breeds, oar making, hull treatment (boat soup), games.

On The Water

Buoyancy aids collected

Three rowing sessions

(Wiston lodge, Milton Loch X2)

Basic commands worked out, and at least six Cluaran members trained in rowing. About three times that number have had the opportunity to “mess about in boats” and have a pull on an oar.

Public displays

£150 has been raised raised from use of boat at educational events including a Wordsmithcrafts school visit to Georgetown primary school and a “Vikings” living history display at Crocketford Gala
High quality publicity photos (Alex McNeil photography)
April 2013
Research into cloth and natural dyes, Enquiries in progress about access to water to train on.
March 2013
We have a trailer, and one complete oar. Work is continuing.
February 2013
Update on the trailer. The boat weighs about 250kg including oars mast and spar. This means that a lighter trailer will do. Also we only need to support 15' of keel, the rest is overhang at the bow and stern.
January 2013
We are looking for a trailer!
Something that will take about 700kg and 5.48 X 1.6M (or  22'X 6')  of boat.

10th November
Boat Repairs nearing completion

28th April 2012
Medieval Crafts and Fundraising Feast
Thank you to everyone  that helped to make the feast a success! new pictures are online.

Next event on the water in Dumfries 30/06 -01/07 save the date!

9th April 2012
Medieval Crafts and Fundraising Feast
This is a feast run by volunteers, funds raised will go towards the Cluaran Boat Building Project

When: sat 21st April from 3pm
Where: West Hurlet House, G53 7TH
 Feast tickets £35 in advance (BYOB) email

5th Feb 2012
A successful first settlers feast

check out the pictures now online:Settlers Feast


 Exploring the intangible cultural heritage of Scotland

The dark ages are experiencing dawn at last. Through artistic exploration, and archaeological research, we explore the cultures of the people who occupied these islands before and during the time of the Romans.

We have already carried out projects to help interpret recent archaeological exploration of the Burnswark Hill fort. The Priestside Anchor will provide a link to naval activities exploring the Solway and links between Scotland and the wider world through the Roman Empire.

The Church in Scotland existed before Scotland itself. We explore its monastic roots, where much of the information we have about pre-Christian life was preserved. We also draw of the riches of that heritage to practice #SensingSpirituality in modern multicultural Scotland. 

What is it to be a Scot?  Gallowglass warriors at the Treaty of Perth negotiating their way into the future from a Norse influenced past, Kings consolidating power and building nations, or borderers reiving cattle and keeping their families alive? We have a range of activities which catch the imagination where fantasies like Braveheart or Game of Thrones leave you stranded. By exploring the historical roots of the many peoples who have contributed to what we experience today, you will be better equipped to contribute to what Scotland is becoming.

Fancy a visit from a Viking to your school? 
With Wordsmithcrafts, this can be arranged. We can provide activities for all ages, and covering many time periods, but  Vikings, and boats, and the west of Scotland go particularly well together. Each visit is tailored to your schools needs, and uses hands on activities and interactive stories to help the pupils imagine what it would be like to live at the time. From raids on Lindisfarne and Iona, through settlement, to the battle of Largs and Treaty of Perth.

And of course, we are still very interested in boat building techniques...

Waterproofing the curragh skin

Constructing the Curragh frame