Revival of Glen Tolsta family croft


If you know Tolsta, you will be familiar with the amazing beaches, the rugged coast line, the dramatic scenery and picturesque houses that greet you in that part of Lewis, writes Jenny Kane.

But few people will be familiar with Glen Tolsta and the narrow road that leads through the peat-land to the coastline, ending at the gate to John Martin’s family croft.

Peering through the gate you get the feeling there is something special beyond, and as you enter the driveway and travel the 200 yards or so to the house, the sight which meets you is something else.

Standing on the edge of the land, facing the sea, in one of the most ruggedly beautiful parts of the island, stands a large croft house that has been built by John next to the original house of his ancestors.

His family first settled in Glen Tolsta after being evicted from their homes in South Lochs during the land clearings. The croft itself has been in his family since 1832. To one side is the original house, the place where John’s mother was born, which is tiny in comparison to the house he has built.

The new building stands proudly, close to a second building used by John as a workshop where he expertly restores and upholsters antique furniture.

He is an expert in the beautiful, old, and hard wearing antique furniture that glistens after being restored to its former glory. And he used that same eye for detail, precision and quality when it came to building the house.

“I’m one of these islanders who is adaptable to anything,” he said. “My father and grandfather were the same.

“The project was done in memory to my people. On the back of the memory of their hardship I built it. I was up for the challenge.”

And a challenge it was because, despite the beauty of Glen Tolsta, theremoteness which makes it so special also presents logistical problems that had to be overcome by his family before him and now John.

“The road went in first, then the drainage and the trees,” he explained. “When I decided to start the project I came down here to stay. It was hard going. But it’s not that difficult compared to what they [his family] had to deal with. They could have done this project with ease.”

But you can tell, with the build almost finished, that it’s the hard work which John thrives on.

“It’s important you believe you are capable of doing the project,” he said. “You learn a lot about yourself. The completion of specific goals is very rewarding in itself if the goals are important to you. You must have passion in it. I did it because I knew I could.”

As well as building the house, John has also planted thousands of trees, from Willows to Norway Spruces to Sycamores and Alder. Soon the drive will become an avenue leading to the house, as the trees establish their roots and become part of the croft.

“The Glen is a breathtaking place to be in anyway,” said John. “Anything by way of increasing the environmental quality of Glen Tolsta is good.”

But with a business that continues to keep him in town, and the house at the stage where people can put their own stamp on it, John is now selling his new croft house. He explained: “I’ve done what I wanted to do, it’s quite challenging on your own down here. I’d prefer some energetic people to come down now.”

* 4 Glen Tolsta, Isle of Lewis

* Underdevelopment so scope for rearranging rooms

* Kitchen, space for second kitchen

* 3 bedrooms

* Study, or 4th bedroom

* Family room, or 5th bedroom

* Lounge

* Bathroom

* Shower room

* Upstairs observatory with balcony

* Workshop, with potential for conversion to residential use

* Original croft house, currently used for storage

* Croftland 9 acres, with 16 1/2 acres in apportionments

* Offers over £230,000 for house

* Offers over £60,000 for croft

* Contact Ken Macdonald & Co. Lawyers & Estate Agents for more information, tel: 01851 705083