One of the landmarks in Wrack Woods is the Ice House, built as the refrigerator for Duff House. The exact date of building is not known but it was before 1800. Today it doesn’t look as though it would keep anything frozen or cold for very long, but when it was fully in use it was the best technology of the time. Built into the side of a hill (probably for ease of construction) it had several features to help it keep food cold.
Today, there is a modern grilled skylight so that the inside of the Ice House can easily be seen, but back when it was in use it would have been fully covered in probably at least 3 feet of earth, the dome shape of the storage compartment providing the strength; secondly the trees provided shade so the hottest sun was never on it; and importantly it had two “air-lock” compartments – three doors, while many of it’s contemporaries only had two. At the bottom was a drain, for the melted ice to be let out; and food could either be laid on the ice – or between layers of ice; or it could be hung from above or held above the ice from some foods that just needed to be cool.
We know that the Head Gardener in the 1870’s, Mr Mackie, kept a master list of what foods were stored where and when in the Ice House; that straw was put between different foods so that they could be split, and that access from the passageway was by ladder into the egg shaped storage compartment.
It is likely ice would be taken from the river and used in the ice house, where it would last for up to two years. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the ambient temperatures were slowly rising in general, and this may also have been the cause of the start of the demise of another source of ice.
We know that in 1874 the “Cuddy” – the donkey – and it’s cart, were taken up to Star Loch for ice. Star Loch was one of two lochans on the top of Doune Hill but these no longer exist. Being still water, and higher, this would freeze more readily than the river water. Star Loch is named on some of the older maps that include Doune Hill.
The cuddy seemed to be an integral part of life at Duff House and was used for several jobs – even taking ice as far as Innes House (between Lhanbryde and the coast)! There is a photo of a donkey at Duff House – perhaps the same one that we know was walked up to Doune Hill!