Hewn out of the rock, perched on the edge of a cliff and hunkered down in the gorse and heather, this house is embedded in every sense in its surroundings
Rarely can a building been better named than Cliff House. Perched on a steep escarpment overlooking Loch Dunvegan in the remote north-west corner of Skye, this newly completed home looks as if it has been hewn out of the rocky, heathery crag. Its audacious ‘edge of the world’ architectural approach has also earned it a place on the shortlist for the RIBA Manser Medal – the UK’s most prestigious housing design award.
Unlike many award-winning homes, which show off state-of-the-art materials, Cliff House is simplicity itself in terms of its plan, construction, details and budget – a very modest £240,000. This is essentially a practical, no-frills living and working croft for Ian McLean and Robbie Pancic, who in 2011 left London and their careers in banking and IT to become full-time crofters.
The couple were staying a few miles away on the island when they first spotted the site. “It was just a field, but we looked at the views and could see the potential,” says Ian. “On first sight it was just waist-high bracken and scrubland, but we soon discovered areas where the ground had been well worked and maintained in previous centuries.”
The 15-acre smallholding was quickly purchased and they began by preparing the infrastructure. “I think we must have dug over a kilometre of ditches,” laughs Robbie. Their second move was to make the croft self-sustaining by creating market gardens and building a neighbouring holiday let, called An Airigh. They then turned their thoughts to what the new croft house would look like.
“We had an idea where the house would be located – we wanted to take advantage of the views. We wanted to look back at the island’s history as a source of inspiration, but we also wanted a good, practical working house,” says Ian.
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