On one of the last days of our time in Orkney we went to the Kirbuster Farm Museum, near Twatt. We were the only people there and got an excellent guided tour through the old farm, where the last owners lived until 1961. They never had electricity or running water. In fact, we noticed that in many ways the place resembled the neolithic houses of Skara Brae, a few miles away. There was an open peat fire in the middle of the room, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out. A few fish were hanging above the fire to be smoked. The smell was fantastic, almost as good as Laphroaig, or Port Charlotte. There were niches in the walls for storing or displaying valuables. There was a stone neuk (scottish for nook) that was used as a place to sleep. We imagined the cold winter mornings, having to get out of bed and put your feet on that icy stone floor.
This place should be on your list if you go to Orkney and I recommend you do!
The smoke went up and out through a hole in the roof. A lot of it stayed in the room though, cannot have been good for people’s lungs. There was an ingenious system that was used to create the right draw for different wind directions and speeds.
Next to the entrance to the sleeping area hangs a fish oil lamp, much like the middle eastern ones. The wick is the core of a piece of reed, which would last about 24 hours. It did not provide much light, but was cheaper than a candle. Next to the lamp hangs a wooden pole that served as a device for measuring the weight of sacks of grain. On the ground is a churn, for making butter.