Doolan Award 2014 - Cliff House

Cliff House, Isle of Skye

The winners of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Awards 2014 were announced on 18 June. The award-winning projects represent some of the very best of current Scottish architecture and each will go forward to the shortlist for the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award, which will be presented on 5 November 2014 at the National Museum of Scotland. The RIAS Doolan Award is supported by the Doolan family and the Scottish Government. Over the coming weeks we will be highlighting each of these projects in our “featured project” section. The eighth of these is: Cliff House, Isle of Skye by Dualchas Architects.


Nestled into the natural topography of a cliff top,  this is a house which responds mindfully to its dramatic natural location. Approached from the rear, it appears as a very low lying building which exerts minimal impact on the natural landscape. Its shrewdly concealed siting on the cliff top also, however, enables the creation of a wide, glazed frontage which takes best advantage of the dramatic far-reaching views over Loch Dunvegan, while remaining sympathetic to the site. The use of natural materials, such as Caithness stone and Scottish larch, elegantly and sensitively further connect the building to the character of its setting.


The building comprises two volumes. The volume facing outwards from the cliff face contains the living and sleeping accommodation, and opens up to the light to take full advantage of the spectacular views from the cliff to the North East.  The volume behind this contains all the serving functions and its positioning mostly below the natural ridge provides shelter from the harsh winds from the South West as well as minimising its visual impact upon the landscape.  A difference in height between the two volumes enables light to be brought into the centre of the plan by way of a clerestory and this is filtered by way of exposed rafters. Highly insulated, the house provides maximum protection from the extremes of Skye’s weather.


The site is located at Galtrigill in North West Skye. The clients, who previously had city jobs in London, wished to radically change their lifestyle through the commissioning of a working croft.  The approach to the building, by way of a sunken path towards solid walls, enables the creation of an uplifting moment upon passing through the entrance into the main living space, where the surrounding landscape is then experienced as a panorama.

Photographs © Andrew Lee Photography

Combined view of sunken approach, glazed wall to panoramic view and interiors