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Junior Guides Bring Western Isles History to Life at the Black House

9 June 2009

Scotland’s wealth of wonderful heritage sites provides outstanding learning opportunities for all ages, and an extensive programme of Historic Scotland initiatives is designed to make the most of this unique educational resource.

One of the most innovative is the Junior Tour Guide scheme operated by Historic Scotland’s Education Unit.  Based on involving children and developing long-term partnerships with primary schools, this involves training pupils to deliver guided tours of their local historic site to visiting primary school groups.

The scheme has proved extremely popular at a number of historic sites throughout the country including Edinburgh Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Claypotts Castle, Stanley Mills and Iona Abbey.  And now it is being extended to include The Western Isles with Junior Guides at the Black House at Arnol.

This fully-furnished, thatched house with its box beds, peat fire, byre, barn and stackyard provides a unique insight into island life.  Over the past few months, pupils from Barvas Primary School have been learning about all aspects of the property’s history and the life of the islanders who lived there and in similar traditional homes.  The primary 6 and 7 pupils have also rehearsed how to lead tour groups and bring to life the history of the Black House by acting as characters from the past of the small community.  For each tour, three pupils - dressed in 1950s costume - will become ‘Effie’, ‘Murdo’, ‘Katie Mary’ or ‘Sandy’ to recall stories of the time.  The Junior Guides are now ready to take on their new roles and will make their debut tomorrow evening (Tuesday 9th June) in front of parents, teachers and other guests,

Sue Mitchell, Historic Scotland’s Education Manager said: “We are delighted that the Black House at Arnol is now part of our Junior Guides Initiative thanks to the involvement of Barvas Primary School. The pupils have worked very hard to prepare for their new roles as Junior Guides and learn all about this fascinating property and the traditional ways of life in The Western Isles.  I have no doubt that they will do a fantastic job showing visiting school groups around The Black House and will help other children to learn about its history.”

Barvas Primary teacher Louise Macleod said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our pupils. The Junior Guides scheme is great because it takes in the four capacities of the Curriculum for Excellence – helping the children become ‘confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors and successful learners’.  It also gives them a good knowledge of their local history, enables them to link with the community, and is great for building their confidence.  

“The kids are really excited about becoming Junior Guides and are looking forward to getting started.”

Notes for editors

  • The Black House at Arnol (Postcode: HS2 9DB) Admission prices: Adult £2.50, Child £1.25, Concession £2.00.

  • The Black House at Arnol is amongst over 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites are in the care of Historic Scotland.  Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys.  For further details visit:

  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information

Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871