Many Scottish houses have an exterior finish of harl - a covering of small pebbles, stone chips, or shell chips as here, embedded in what was traditionally a base of lime render. The finish is supposed to offer good protection against the Scottish weather. All sorts of buildings are harled. The Great Hall of Stirling Castle (which is having its limewash re-done this summer), Crathes Castle, and my Dad's house, where I took this shot. We have the shell chip variety of harl. The chips are tiny - I used the macro setting on my camera. I'm rather fond of our seashells, and of sharing a building technique with famous castles.

We've been away for a while getting things organised for my Dad's return from hospital, and helping him settle in at home. Six months is a long time to be in hospital, and he still needs a lot of support. But he has a team of carers coming in to the house 4 times a day to help him make the transition to coping by himself. This amazing service is free. Thank you, National Health Service.


  1. That is so beautiful! I never knew they could be used for that too! I guess people have always adapted to their environment and used what was natural in their areas to build, eat and live!

    Sometimes I forget that other places in the world are so different from where I am.

  2. I'm glad to hear that your dad is coming home. What an amazing National Health Service you have. They say that growing old is not for the faint of heart, and I believe that they must have been thinking of our American lack of a decent national health plan when they said it. So many old folks here can't stay in their homes when that would be the best thing for them in every way.

    Ah, well, I didn't come here to carry on. I came to comment on the wonderful shells and a completely new concept to me--harl. Thank you for telling us about it.

  3. Nice macro of the shell chips. I looked at the two links provided in your blog. The Great Hall of Stirling Castle is impressive. I bet your father will be happy to be in his own home after 6 months away.

  4. I never knew what that was called! Thanks for the information.

    I'm wishing your father the best with the transition to home. Get down on your knees and say thanks for the National Health Service. Here in the states, we would be on our own.

  5. Glad to hear your dad's coming home. The NHS is so wonderful (I'm not saying that just because I work for it!) (actually I'm saying that despite working for it!).

    And that's a lovely picture.


  6. Hooray for your dad. He must be grateful for all the help and to be home.
    I love the harl (another new word and concept for me) - on the first look it seems like seashells on the beach. It must be lovely to have such a charming protective covering.

  7. What a beautiful way to finish houses! No one would ever think of doing that over here in Canada!

    I'm glad to hear your father will be able to leave the hospital, I'm sure he'll be happy to be home.

  8. Oh, the comfort of being in your own home, especially when you don't feel well.

    Harl, is very pretty and interesting. What a lovely shot! Your dad's home is his castle. ;-)

    We have old coquina buildings and outcroppings along our eastern coast here in Florida. My favorite is the pretty pinkish gold color. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coquina

    Saying a prayer for you all and hope you have a great weekend.


  9. Protective covering--a metaphor if I ever saw one. A lovely one, too. Your NHS sounds like it's working well. In the States it's been a contentious issue, as you may know. But I'm one of those who hopes we can make it work as well as you have, for old and young alike.

  10. Where we live they call this coquina. We have old forts that are constructed of coquina. Good defense against cannon balls. Happy to hear that your dad can return home. It is wonderful that he has been able to receive such comprehensive care.

  11. "Harl" is a new word for me. I'd love to have a house with walls embedded with chips of seashells.

    I LOVE this photo....did you have to look far to find a whole shell?

  12. Hello, Linda. First of all, thank you so much for your kind comment on my blog. I'm so sorry that you and your family have had such a tough year, but I'm so happy to read that things are looking up for you. It certainly encourages me, in the midst of my misery, to read that.

    Second, as the other commenters have said, you are truly blessed to have your National Health Service. Right now, I am sorting through stacks of bills from my children's unlucky sojourns in the hospital this year, wondering how we can possibly pay them. And we have insurance! But we have to pay thousands of dollars before the insurance (which we pay dearly for) will kick in.

    Well, I didn't mean to go on about that. But I wanted also to say how utterly enchanted I am with your seashell harl. I love the idea of using natural materials on your house(especially those that are also beautiful) from the area you live in. I am now inspired---if we are ever able to build our own house, I think I shall use some of the river rocks from the French Broad River near our home.

    Sorry to go on so long...I'll end by sending my best thoughts and wishes to you and your family for the coming days. Thanks again for your good wishes sent across the sea for my family and me.

    Beth (in the mountains of North Carolina)

  13. Beautiful harl!

    I'm glad to hear that your dad is returning home and I hope his homecoming is joyous.

  14. I learn so much from your blog, Linda! I always thought that harl(ing?) was just pebbles. How wonderful that it can be shells too - as I remember on that particular wee hoosie. I hadn't discovered your blog yet last summer so I didn't know your father was in hospital for such a very long time. I hope his homecoming was truly joyous, as CTG Ponies wished.


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