Like many people, I guess, I pretty much take the roof over my head for granted; as long as one is there and it isn't leaking or being blown off by a storm, I don't give it much thought. Coming to Skye, though, has made me consider roofs in a new way.
We are staying in a single-storey house by the water's edge with a view of mountains and forests and ever-changing cloud formations, and it has a flat, turf roof which is currently covered in pink and white clover, local grasses and plants I can't name. It looks beautiful as we approach it down the hill (it's set just above the seaweed-covered shoreline) and blends in with the rowan trees and foxgloves and ferns roundabout. But more than that, it creates excellent insulation and has fine green/eco credentials.
Fired by this growing interest in roofs, I've been looking a various types as we drive around the island and reading about Skye buildings in the books on the shelves here. There isn't a great deal of literature on Skye architecture, but I have found out that the crofters' stone cottages used to have thatched roofs which was warm and cosy. However, they were later forced by landowners to replace it as it was deemed unhealthy and germ-harbouring, even though it could be easily be removed, burned and replaced after illness in the house.
Instead, they had to use the new, cheap, modern material of corrugated iron which is noisy, draughty and, in a single layer, very inadequate when it comes to insulation, although it lasts well and looks amazing when it's old and picturesquely rusty - to someone who doesn't live under it.
Nevertheless, there are still many small buildings here with corrugated iron roofs - newsagents, sheds, barns, houses - which are fully functioning, and the mix of old stone and new iron has become an accepted part of the landscape rather than an eyesore (according to one well-known book, corrugated iron was considered very unaesthetically pleasing).
Modern houses now have slate or tiled roofs, but there is also a wonderful new style of Skye buildings pioneered by Dualchas which takes old vernacular styles and types (sheds, byres, agricultural buildings) and turns them into brilliantly designed, light-filled and energy-efficient dwellings and offices made from Scottish materials such as larch, birch, slate and stone (several have modern corrugated metal roofs).
From now on I'll not just thankful for a roof over my head, but also thankful if it happens to be beautiful, interesting, and, importantly, well-insulated.
[I never thought I'd be recommending reading about corrugated iron in rural Scotland, but this study is really good.