Scottish Highland Thatching (a' Tugadh)
Training and Consultancy

thatching a roof thatching a roof
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Based in Perthshire

About the Scottish styles of thatching

Scottish thatching (Highlands' and Islands' styles) are quite different from what most people would think of as a thatched house, which is in fact an English or Scottish Lowland style. Lowland Scottish and English styles are very similar - they both use cuilc (water reed / Norfolk reed). This material is quite rare in the Highlands, hence our use of about six other materials:

I thatch in the above materials with the exception of Oat Straw and Muran which are no longer available in viable quantities and quality. Sorry about that, but I don't control the growing of the materials. You might.

I thatch in the following styles:

I also build, repair or advise on the build of the roof timbers themselves, beyond the thatch alone. This involves other aspects unique to Scottish styles:

The thatching work that I do currently

Work I am not currently undertaking

Traditional ethos

I only use traditional materials in the roof. I do not use stainless steel or wire ties or rods, plastic string etc. This is important if your roof is of scheduled / listed status. It is also important for the health of the roof and its environmental impact.

Generally, the way I approach thatching is to put a building back the way it was designed to be and to, if possible, reinstate the human context that supported the building's maintenance. This latter involves where possible training property keepers, developing sources of local thatch materials and removing historically inappropriate and unsustainable inclusions in the roof. We think it's important to rethatch a Scottish roof in the local or original style, applying the 500 Yard Rule: if you can't find the materials fairly close to the site then you're moving out of the local style and into higher costs and other vernacular styles. It's not always possible to stick to the 500 yard rule, but it's a good start point. Often cuilc / water reed is imported from Eastern Europe nowadays. I only use Scottish reed. You'll want to ask about and consider this when looking for a thatcher.

Community Group Projects

A good part of my work is for community groups, NGOs and the like, wishing to use a thatching project to engage and skill the public in revitialising a building or creating a new outdoor, covered workspace. See the video.

A video about a community garden thatching project (a Celtic round house).


Scottish thatching Thatching a Celtic round house
Argyllshire traditional luachair thatch dwelling from 1850s ~ ~ ~ ~ A new build Celtic roundhouse for a community group space


Scottish thatching Thatching a Celtic round house

and After

Scottish thatching Thatching a Celtic round house
A luachar thatch (rush) when new ~~ A bealaidh thatch (broom) when new

Who We Are

I work as a team of two thatchers, myself (Scot AnSgeulaiche) and Weaver and sometimes a labourer.

Scottish thatchers Scottish thatchers

I trained with the late Jim Souness, who trained with Duncan Matheson (Duncan Stalker) and Gaelic-speaking thatchers from Tiree. In keeping with the Highland tradition, we're not "Master Thatchers" the way the trade has in England. The Highlands didna really have such, historically speaking. Houses were maintained communally, by rotation within the townships. Today we have about six professional thatchers in Scotland (although a very small number of owners still maintain their own thatch, as we used to do).

What does thatching a roof cost?

Typically a small highland cottage will cost £5000-6000 for ath-tughadh (dressing thatch) and £6000-9000 for a complete rethatch, both dependent on materials, location, state of the existing roof and so on.

If you are considering a thatch project, here are two things that make a big difference to the cost, at least for my jobs:

Salient points

How long does a thatch last?

If it is maintained correctly (serviced like a car each year) then a thatch job will last between 3 and 40 years, depending on material type, the property location. At the end of that time, a "dressing thatch" /"ath-tughadh" would be needed. A complete rethatch is only needed when maintenance has been neglected. I am keen to train roof owners to do the yearly maintenance for themselves.

tide marker tide marker tide marker
The Dundee Tide Marker as part of the Climate Change Conference (COP 26) 2021
heather thatch heather thatch
A heather thatch, when new
heather thatch
A cuilc thatch (Tay reed) completed

Thatching Training

Training in Highland thatching is offered in a few different ways.

I am pleased to say that in 2023, I have been awarded funding by the Heritage Crafts Association to take on an apprentice. This project aims for there to be one more professional highland thatcher in Scotland by its completion. That's an increase of about 50% on the currently available thatchers in Scotland! I would hope to offer more semi-formal apprenticeships in the future.

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Highland Thatch Consultancy

If you care for or are considering buying a thatched property in the Highlands or Islands you'll want to know more about the indigenous thatch styles. If you are applying for a HES grant to rethatch, then understanding the difference between Highland and Lowland / English thatch, traditional and non-traditional materials or styles might be important. Your thatched building might be listed and thus require a local style and traditional techniques and materials. I can advise on these.

I can conduct a thatch survey if you are looking to purchase a property or to appraise the life expectancy and problem areas of the current thatch, or for insurance purposes. Many home insurance companies require a thatch report every five years.

If you just need some initial outline help, a first phone call will cost you nothing! If you need a more worked up proposal, start with that free phone call or email and we'll cost it from there.


This video shows the sustainable harvesting of Cuilc, which is a thatch type suitable for Lowland style properties in Scotland and England.

Site created 2016. Updated 2023. All images copyright.