The Scottish Crannog Centre will open on 26th April.

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Iron Smelting - Two Day Workshop

Workshops can be booked through our Fareharbor system, available on our homepage

Use ore, charcoal and fire to make new iron!

Note: For the following course you must be over 18, physically fit, wear work boots and natural fibre clothing with long sleeves and trousers.

Iron revolutionised our world about 2,500 years ago during the prehistory of the British Isles. This new black metal was harder, sharper and stronger than anything that came before it. Ironworkers of the past are figures regarded with respect, power and mystic abilities, probably since a mere rock could become the most powerful material of the time in their hands.

Smelting is the process where metallic metal is produced from metal ores (rocks/ mineral deposits) through heating in a furnace. Bloomery iron smelting was the technique used for the first 2,000 or so years of iron use. It uses a ceramic, cylindrical furnace which gets filled with charcoal and iron ore, superheated with man-powered bellows to about 1300 degrees Celcius, and produces a solid but mega-hot lump of iron (known as a bloom) at the end. This iron lump is then hammered into shape to make a wrought iron bar. It’s almost like a miniature volcano with rivulets of waste materials called slag that run out of it like lava! The iron could then be forged by a blacksmith into weapons, tools or other objects (we also run courses on blacksmithing).

Come and learn this all but forgotten traditional method to create iron from rock which has been revived by archaeologists and crafters. As a team you’ll use fire, charcoal and ore within the furnace to work towards creating a bloom of iron within the setting of our lochside museum. Refreshments and lunch will be provided and you will go away with new skills from a community-based activity, an information booklet and some pieces from the smelting (slag and possibly a piece of the iron).

Suitable for complete beginners: this is a chance to discover metalworking among fellow enthusiasts and perhaps discover a new passion, all whilst immersed in the stunning setting of our prehistoric museum set in the lochs and hills of Highland Scotland.

Course details:

Day 1:

Arrival at 9.30am for 10am start. Have a hot drink and explore the site.

Visit the museum and see our artefacts connected to metalworking.

Learn about the dawning of the Iron Age and metalwork in prehistory, and discuss the techniques involved.

Build a furnace using traditional methods and materials including clay, organic materials and sand.

Lunch prepared in the Iron Age kitchen.
Prepare materials like ore and charcoal needed for the next days smelting.

Settle into the crannog for an overnight stay complete with an Iron Age dinner, storytelling and music session.

Day 2:

Wake from the cosy Crannog to an Iron age breakfast on the shores of the loch or in the crannog.

Prepare the furnace for the smelt... building the fire, and as is tradition, leave a handprint on the surface of the furnace.

Adding charcoal and ore, start the bellowing process. As this is a joint community effort a simple lunch will be offered as the process must not stop in order to produce the best results.

All going well through your teamwork, the end result will be producing a bloom of iron!

At the end, some food will be cooked in the dying embers of the furnace and shared.

You will leave with the satisfaction of having created iron, some pieces of the slag and potentially the iron created, an information booklet about smelting and memories of an Iron Age experience.


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