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An Overview Of Durness & Sutherland


Durness is the most North Westerly town on mainland Britain and is the home of Clan MacKay. Perhaps a little unexpected but you can find the John Lennon Memorial Garden within Durness for he spent many a childhood holiday enjoying the splendour of the area. There is also a thriving artistic community a mile or so along the road at Balnakeil Craft Village.

Within the local area can be found evidence of cave dwellings at Smoo Caves (meaning Hiding Place) dating back over 6000 years ago. There are now boat trips around the interior caves where you can learn how the caves were originally formed and enlarged during ice ages. There are also stone circles and chambered cairns. Evidence of 8th century Christian settlement, the Vikings, 18th century architecture, the notorious highland clearances and the Second World war can been seen within the landscape.

The coastline has spectacular beaches between rocky outcrops, cliffs and caves. Feeling remote and quite isolated it is the perfect spot for picnics and the occasional surfer or skinny dipper can be spotted!

To the East of Durness is Cape Wrath, home to a lighthouse built by Robert Stevenson and several Sites of Special Scientific Interest where an array of bird life lives. Thousands of puffins, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes live side by side making it an incredible sight. During May there is the Cape Wrath Challenge which incorporates 5 days of running across breathtaking land with a ceilidh* to top it off with. (*Gaelic Dictionary)

The Highland Clearances is the historic event which probably had the most dramatic effect upon the area. Within the outlying land, you can still see ruined blackhouses and lazybeds which would have formed thriving local communities before the clearances destroyed them. In 1810 the Duke of Sutherland leased the land to a lowland Scot who started to control the whole way of life by owning the fishing boats the local people used and the smokeries where the catch was sold to for low prices. By the 1840’s these communities started to disappear. With the introduction of hill sheep farming, people were told they had to leave their homes and with little industry to support them, many left to start new lives in Canada. They did not give up their homes easily though, and riots occured between them and the local constables and sherrifs.

East Sutherland

Stretching up the far East coast of Scotland taking in towns on route such as Golspie and Brora, Sutherland is a fantastic part of Scotland. Award winning beaches can be found along side towering sea cliffs making a spectacular coastline. Heather covered hills with stone circles can be found inland.

Starting on the Dornoch Firth, you have Edderton where pictish stones can be found in the local graveyard. By Ardgay you have Carbisdale Castle as well as Croick Church where people seeking refuge from the highland clearances have carved messages on the walls.

Just outside Golspie resides the Duke of Sutherland at Dunrobin Castle. Notorious during the Highland Clearances, the Dukes of Sutherland have had a pronounced effect upon Sutherland. A monument of the first Duke upon Beinn a’Bhragaidh still dominates the area.

Brora has yet another fantastic beach and a couple of miles outside the small town, the wolf stone can be found. This reputedly marks the spot where the last wolf in Scotland was shot in 1700.

Helmsdale was the site of a Gold Rush in 1869 where prospectors arrived and formed a shanty town. Though the rush lasted only a year, gold can still be found in the river beds today.

West Sutherland

Running along the very North Coast of Scotland, it has rugged mountains such as Ben Loyal and Ben Hope which in summer turn purple with the heather blooming, Britain’s deepest Sea Loch, Loch Eriboll, and fantastic beaches at Bettyhill and Farr. It is a land of wilderness in all directions feeling remote and isolated with towns being more a collection of houses than anything else.

Things we do in Sutherland:

History and Legends



Hi I’m Alvin Tucker. As a born and bred Scott, and a "has been" tourist businessman since my business went bust, I have a lot to offer my readers in life. So please check out my posts...

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