These words are from the dictionary of the Scots language: The terms of which are in common usage unlike the Gaelic which is more common in the highlands.

  • Drystane dyke
  • doocot: pidgeon hole usually near eaves in a building, structure to house doos
  • cot: humble dwelling, cottage, workers housing belonging to employer
  • fauld: an enclosure for animals (common place name)
    • barnfauld, shepe-fauld, fauld-dyke
  • hut: secondary residence – hutting communities after 1st world war.
  • bothy: any primitive dwelling or shelter of any kind. Shepherds, climbers

I’ve been trying to think past drystane dykes for a wee while to think what else vernacular structures can be, which is why I thought of the term wild structures, just to think about it from a different angle as I thought about another couple of vernacular structures I’d forgotten about.

In Glasgow and surrounding countryside there are a a couple of structures that I’ve been fascinated by. The first one is doocots, pigeon lofts but still called after the grander structures dating from Victorian times and before, when the laird would keep hundreds of pigeons for feasting on (squabs) in grand folly type buildings

Images from a travel blog (

When I started temping in offices while at University, I wondered why the small shelves allocated to each person for mail were called doocots. No one could explain, so it stayed in my head and popped out during history of architecture lectures when I first saw a doocot in the scottish history section. These structures are not the ones that interest me however, although I do love the drystane dyking construction – which would have had to use mortar to stand up.

When taking the train I used to see strange, hand built loft like structures in the hidden parts of the city,  visible from the train but not accessible from roads, built from timber and off cuts of corrugated steel and black roofing felt. They were always green, unless they were black. They are contemporary, vernacular doocots, built by pigeon breeders on land they claim by act of building on, and amazingly the only damage inflicted on them usually is graffiti, the council seem to ignore them.


west elevation and view east back up the cycle path (09/06/11) (

They’re built like the Scottish defensible structures called Tower Houses, in miniature, with a non-penetrable base, and wider top with the doocots for the doos to nest in. I think like the English pigeon fanciers, this is a dying tradition.

Another concept with it’s accompanying vernacular structure is the idea of the hut and the hutting communities. Where I moved to, in the last year of primary school  (so things that everyone else didn’t think about seemed strange to me as an incomer) and also into high school, many people had family huts just outside Glasgow on the grounds of an estate called Carbeth where they spent all the school holidays. The Laird (and many other Lairds of other scottish estates) gifted their returning first world war soldiers with a tiny piece of land so that they could recovered from the trauma of war. The hutting communities still remain in Carbeth (despite an new Laird in the 1980;s trying to do as many other Lairds were doing at that time and evict them off their land). This particular community now have community ownership in the last 5 years.

carbeth hut.jpg


The huts are hand built often using found materials, similar to the doocots and strangely also many of them are green. There have no electricity or running water. The huts are handed down the generations. There is a resurgence of interest after the community buy out and huts are now bought and sold. They are only allowed as second residence.

The last wild/vernacular structure are bothies. There were many of them dotted on the hillsides where I moved to, they were for the shepherds, and during the 2nd world war were lit up so the germans would bomb the hills rather than the shipyards. Which didn’t always work as many refugees had to move to the Carbeth huts during the Clydebank Blitz.

Bothies are mainly used by climbers now, but were built for anyone needing shelter. Again originally hand built by material to hand with the purpose of shelter, they usually have no running water or electricity but welcome any traveller.


Feadaig Bothy,




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