Sites and Monuments

This map shows details of sites and monuments as listed in the NMRS and/or SMR and located either on the Durness Estate or close to its boundaries.

Our main source in drawing up an inventory of archaeological features in the area was the National Monuments Record Scotland (NMRS) operated by the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS).  This was supplemented by reference to the Highland Councils Sites and Monuments Record (SMR).  A check against the sites listed in “What to see around Durness” by Kevin J. O’ Reilly and Ashley Ashcroft was also undertaken.

  • The information contained in  the NMRS and the SMR, although a good starting point, should be treated with some caution as:

  • Many of these sites listed have not been surveyed in detail since originally recorded (often in the 1960s and 1970s)

  • Descriptions may not be entirely accurate and/or current archaeological thinking may interpret them differently from the way they were originally described

  • Sites may not now be as visible as when originally recorded either due to seasonal vegetation  growth or because of damage through erosion or disturbance

  • The number of features recorded is likely to be only a fraction of the features actually present due to the fact that very little formal archaeological surveying has been carried out in the Durness area.

Two archaeological surveys have been made recently of sites in and around Durness, as follows:

  • Durness Archaeological Interpretation Project Report, which includes details of sites recorded during walkover surveys of the settlement at Ceannabeinne cleared in 1842 (scene of the Durness Riots) and of the hillside west of Loch Croispol, where extensive, easily-visible features can be seen, ranging from Bronze Age burial cairns and hut circles to 18th Century improved agricultural landscape features. The majority of features at both sites were previously unrecorded in the NMRS and SMR.  Appendix One shows a summary of the sites recorded in the Rowan Tree Consulting report.

  • GUARD walkover survey of Loch Croispol and Loch Borralie.  This survey identified over 2,000 features, of which the vast majority are not recorded in the NMRS or SMR. A GUARD excavation of some of these features is planned for summer 2004.

 

Information has been referenced from

  • Extracts from Elizabeth Beaton’s Sutherland  An Illustrated Architectural Guide have been added to the NMRS/SMR extracts

  • What to see around Durness  Local history, archaeology, geology, Kevin J O’Reilly and Ashley Crockford, Cheltenham, 2001

  • Durness Archaeological Interpretation Project, undertaken by Rowan Tree Consulting for the Durness Development Group Ltd, February 2003

  • Loch Borralie, Kyle of Durness- Project 950, GUARD, Glasgow University ,

  • Sutherland An Illustrated Guide, Elizabeth Beaton, The Rutland Press, Edinburgh, 1995 2003

Site no. 1  Durness Limekiln  NMRS Number: NC45NW 19 Location: NC 4163 5908 SMR No. NC 45 NW0044 Site Type: Limekiln  

 

Site no. 2  Allt An Lagain NMRS Number: NC45NW 23 Location: NC 4115 5915

Site Type: Building Description: The footings of a crudely-constructed building 6.5m by 3.5m. Early modern.

 

Site no. 3   Allt An Lagain NMRS Number: NC45NW 22 Location: NC 4060 5970

Site Type: Enclosure Description: A probable early modern cattle pound in a shallow natural gorge. It measures 17 ft by 15 ft and the stones are piled, not built. Letter from K Reid to Ordnance Survey, 25 September 1978

Site no. 4  Loch Eriboll   NMRS Number: NC46SW 1 Location: NC 4049 6102 Site Type: Wheel House SMR Number: NC46SW0001  Scheduled Ancient MonumentDescription: An enigmatic structure known as Tigh na Fiarnain – House of the Fingalians – and set in an uncultivable area of almost bare rock at a height of over 900ft. It measures 5.5m NE-SW by 5m NW-SE within its dry-built wall, 1.1m thick and 1.4m high, with the entrance in the E. In the interior is a circle of seven orthostats set at a distance of about 1m from the wall, one of which is lintelled, another partially so, and possible roofing slabs lie about.  On the W, an annexe, 8.5m long and 3m broad, defined by erect slabs bedded in the peat, curves round the structure. The peat in the inerior has been scooped out. To the N are traces of an outer wall which appear to curve in towards the annexe wall; and to the SW are vague traces of yet another enclosure formed by erect slabs, now collapsed, and bounded by rock outcrops on the S.

J Mathieson 1925; Information from Dr C S Sandeman, 2nd March 1959; Visited by Ordnance Survey, 5th April 1959.

An unusually well-preserved example of a wheelhouse, as described and illustrated by the previous authorities. Tumble has been added to the wall accentuating its height, and the S side of the entrance has been buttressed against collapse. Some of the internal lintels appear to be re-erections.

Visited by Ordnance Survey, 12th May 1980.

This structure is more akin to the round aisled-houses or ‘wags’ of the Latheron district of Caithness, having free-standing orthostats as opposed to radial walls or slabs of the true Hebridean wheel-house, and should be considered as a homestead for publication. Its remote location and being so distant from the main group far to the east, is puzzling.

Visited by Ordnance Survey, 1st February 1983 The SMR notes that Historic Scotland had suggested that this site would benefit from some management works to enhance its visitor interest. It was noted that some rebuilt elements of the structure looked precarious. To ensure visitor safety, stabilisation of the worst sections was recommended, and it was suggested that a Historic Scotland architect be consulted. It is understood that Laid Grazings Committee is interested in including this site in a proposed Laid Heritage and Geology Trail.

Site no. 5 Portnancon NMRS Number: NC46SW 5.01 Location: NC 4271 6031 Site Type: Fishing Station Description: For Portnancon township (centred NC 426 606), see NC46SW 5.00. (Location cited as NC 427 603). Portnancon, pier, store etc. Mid 19th Century. A long coursed-rubble pier with a ramp on one side, with a wood-piled extension at right-angles. There is a two-storey and attic storehouse with external stair to the first floor and the characteriestic Sutherland Estates projecting eaves. A small cottage next door is in similar style. There is also a small smoking house of wooden construction on a stone base. J R Hume 1977

 

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Site no. 6 Portnancon NMRS Number: NC46SW 5.00 Location: NC 426 606 Site Type: Township Description: A township comprising two unroofed and seven roofed buildings is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet xv). The township contains four unroofed and five roofed buildings and several enclosures on the current OS 1:10,560 map (1961). Three of the roofed buildings on the 1st edition OS 6-inch are part of Portnancon Fishing Station at NC 427 603 (NC46SW 5.01). Information from RCAHMS, 14 August 1995.

Site no. 7  Port Chamuill  NMRS Number: NC46SW 11 Location: NC 4312 6094 Site Type: Longhouse Description: Longhouse, 25m by 5m. 

Site no. 8  Port Chamuill NMRS Number: NC46SW 12 Location: NC 429 611

Site Type: Township Description: Footings of three buildings, measuring from 14m by 4m to 21m by 4m, of 18th-19th century date and remains of accompanying enclosures. Lazy-bed cultivation is present. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 17th April 1980. A township comprising two unroofed buildings and an area of cultivated ground is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet xv). The township is depicted as seven unroofed buildings on the current edition OS 1:10,560 map (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 15th August 1995.

Site no. 9 Portnancon South NMRS Number: NC46SW 3 Location: NC 427 611 Site Type: Souterrain (Possible) SMR Number: NC46SW0003

Scheduled Ancient Monument Description: NC 427 611. This possible souterrain is a mound within 10.0m E of the road, with stonework in the base of the lower (E) side; it sounds hollow when jumped on. Visited by A L F Rivet, Assistant. Archaeological Officer, 21st August 1964.
The SMR record goes on to note that “there is no evidence of a souterrain at the map reference given or in the vicinity. The only mound located is natural”.

 

Site no. 10  Portnancon NMRS Number: NC46SW 2 Location: NC 4282 6129 Site Type: Souterrain; Hut-Circle SMR number: NC46SW0002 Scheduled Ancient Monument Description:  An Leabaidh-fholaich’ – the Hiding Place (Name Book 1874) – or ‘An Tigh Fo Thalaidh’ (OS 6″map, 2nd ed., 1908) – an apparently meaningless name, which may be for ‘An Tigh Fo Thalaimh’ – the House below the Ground – is a souterrain which was cleared and drained by Buxton between 1927 and 1935.
The entrance was blocked by a slab 3ft 6ins long and 2ft 6ins high which now lies beside it, and the flight of twelve stone steps which led down into the gallery had been infilled by earth and stones. The gallery itself was 27ft long and 4ft 4ins to 5ft 5ins high; and the walls of undressed stone rose in an outward curve so that the width across the floor was 4ft 3ins, half-way up it was 5ft and at the roof, where it was spanned by stone lintels, it was 3ft 5ins. The end chamber was 4ft 9ins high and 5ft 7ins wide and at the NE corner was a hollow in the floor 4ft in diameter and about 2ft deep, which may have been used to drain the gallery. No relics were found but, after draining, the floor deposit yielded fragments of bone which were, however, too small for identification.
The entrance passage to the souterrain measures 3m long and 0.8m wide. The gallery could not be examined as the floor is again flooded but it could be seen that the walls and roof were in good condition. A mound, 1m high, covers the souterrain. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 5th April 1960. The souterrain is as described in the preceding reports. It has been entered from within a hut circle in the SE arc but all that remains of the latter is an arc of walling extending for about 4.5m on either side of the entrance to the souterrain. The wall is overlaid by debris (presumably cleared from the souterrain) but it appears to have been about 2.0m wide, with five or six large stones on edge defining the inner face. The majority of the hut has been destroyed by the road and a ruinous field wall parallel to the road. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 12th May 1980.
The SMR notes that it has been suggested by Historic Scotland that this site would benefit from some management works to enhance its visitor interest. The souterrain is hidden by dense bracken in high summer and autumn. It is recommended that the bracken should be controlled to allow easier access, and to reveal the remains of the associated hut-circle. Again, it is understood that Laid Grazings Committee is interested in including this site in a proposed Laid Heritage and Geology Trail
From Souterrains in Sutherland by Alex Morrison
Portnacon is noted as having been entered from what was originally the south-east arc of a hut circle. Describing the eirde house at Eriboll , Arthur Mitchell (1866) noted that other underground structures in the district were known as leabidh fholaich (‘hiding beds’). Wainwright (1963. 14) dismissed the ‘refuge’ theory, noting the impossibility of defending such a structure from the inside and particularly that their location would not be unknown to a potential attacker. It would also be unlikely if, as suggested above, the roofing were visible on the surface. The Sutherland sites are even less likely, on account of their narrowness and lower roofing, to have offered safe refuge in times of trouble. By contrast, many of the Irish souterrains, with their elaborate air vents, angled passages, hidden chambers, drop holes and ‘creeps’, seem to be constructed for defence or protection rather than storage (Warner 1979). A bronze spiral finger ring and a bronze spherical object “showing numerous small hammer-marks’, were said to have been found in the souterrain at Eriboll. 

Site no. 11 Coire Na Creubhaich  NMRS Number: NC36SE 27 Location: NC 399 619 Site Type: Shieling-Huts (Possible)  Description: Three unroofed structures which are depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet xiv) may be shieling-huts. On the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1988) there are three unroofed structures shown, one of which is depicted as a ruin. Information from RCAHMS, 10th August 1995.  

 

Site no. 12  Meall Meadhonach   NMRS Number: NC46SW 16  Location: NC 411 635 Site Type: Shieling-Huts (Possible)  Description: What may be two unroofed shieling-huts are depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet xv). They are not depicted on the current edition OS 1:10,560 map (1961).
Information from RCAHMS, 15th August 1995.  

 

Site no. 13 Beinn Ceannabeinne    NMRS Number: NC46SW 4  Location: NC 432 644   Site Type: Shieling-Huts  Description: Steading, 6.0m by 4.0m, with spring and enclosures; on the 550ft contour. T C Welsh 1972. Centred NC 432 644, on a shelf on a hillside, are the earth and stone footings of at least six shieling bothies, dimensions ranging between 4.0m to 5.0m long by 2.0m to 3.0m broad, and the ruins of a later dry-stone building, 6.0m by 4.0m. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 16th April 1980. 

 

Site no. 14  Allt Chailgeag  NMRS Number: NC46SW 13  Location: NC 4351 6471 Site Type: Shieling-Hut  Description: Turf and stone footings, approximately 6m by 4m, of a shieling bothy; 20m to the N a linked series of small, crudely-built structures are probably lambing pens.  Visited by Ordnance Survey, 17th April 1980.

Site no. 15  Rispond   NMRS Number: NC46NW 13  Location: NC 449 652 Site Type: Township  Description: NC 448 653: Three longhouses, 14m by 19m long by 5m across, with associated enclosures, etc, lie on the N side of the road. Also, at NC 450 652 are two longhouses, one with an enclosure, two ovals 9m by 4m and 7m by 4m, and two rectangles 9m by 5m and 8m by 5m. T C Welsh 1972ab.Corrected to NC 449 652. Deserted crofting township abandoned in 18th-19th century, on W side of Rispond Bay . Landward extent delimited by a head dyke in part renovated and incorporated in the line of a later wall. There are remains of five longhouses, dimensions between 11m to 18m long by 4.5m, with accompanying enclosures and field walls Visited by Ordnance Survey, 11th April 1980.
Footings of longhouse, 26m by 4m, on the N side of the road. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 11th April 1980.
A township comprising seven roofed buildings and one unroofed building is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi), but not one of the buildings noted by the OS and by Welsh (1972) are shown. One of the roofed buildings is part of Rispond fishing station (see NC46NE 1). Five roofed buildings are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10,560 map (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 14th August 1995.

Site no. 16  Allt Chailgeag   NMRS Number: NC46NW 12  Location: NC 442 652 Site Type: Buildings  Description: NC 442 652. Steading, 9.5m by 4m, with enclosures. TC Welsh 1972.
NC 4423 6524 and NC 4429 6529. Ruins of two dry stone buildings, 10m by 3m and 7m by 4m, one with an adjoining enclosure. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 11th April 1980.  

 

Site no. 17  Rispond Road End, Bridge NMRS Number: NC46NW 24 Location: NC 44416528 Site Type: Bridge  Description: None  

 

Site no. 18  Clais Charnach NMRS Number: NC46NW 19  Location: NC 4409 6542 Site Type: Building  Description: One unroofed building is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-ich map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi). There are no buildings shown at this location on the current edition OS 1:10,560 (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 8th August 1995 

 

Site no. 19 Ceannabeinne  NMRS Number: NC46NW 20 Location: NC 4397 6570 Site Type: Enclosure  Description: A single enclosure is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi). What may be a wall of the enclosure is shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10,560 map (1961).
Information from RCAHMS, 14th August 1995. Note: a walk-over survey of this site which provides much more detailed information on its archaeological features was undertaken by Rowan Tree Consulting for the Durness

Development Group

Site no. 20 Traigh Na H’Uamhag  NMRS Number: NC46NW 4 Location: NC 4415 6599 Site Type: Monastery (Possible)  Description: (NC 4415 6599) Over a natural arch is a causeway defended by two lines of boulders. On the promontory are two buildings – rectangular. The SW edge of the promontory may have been delimited by a wall.
Information from Dr C S Sandeman, Durness, 14th March 1967.The promontory is approached by a natural causeway about 15ft wide over a natural arch. At the W end six boulders have been set upright in the earth. Sixteen feet to the E of the boulders the causeway is 9ft wide. On the promontory is a sub-rectangular structure, with a rectangular structure about 33ft to the E.
Information contained in letter and field notes from K Reid to Ordnance Survey, 25th September 1978.
A cliff-girt promontory accessible from the landward side by a natural causeway over a natural arch. A line of earthfast angular boulders block the approach, and on the causeway itself an embedded, transverse slab may indicate a further blocking wall. On the promontory are footings of a rectangular structure measuring an estimated 8.5m by 5.0m within a wall 1.2m thick; a short distance to the E among rock outcrops are traces of a small, possibly circular structure. Along the SW side of the promontory and round the NW, stone showing in an eroded scarp indicates a skirting wall. It is unlikely that this is a fort in view of vulnerability from the NE where the cliffs give way to shelving rock. This could well be a monastic settlement and it may not be coincidental that a monastic site (NC46NW 5) is clearly viewed to the W. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 23rd April 1980. 

Site no. 21  Cnoc Nan Uamhag  NMRS Number: NC46NW 18 Location: NC 438 658 Site Type: Farmstead  Description: This farmstead which comprises two unroofed buildings and one enclosure is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi). The site comprises two unroofed buildings and three enclosures as depicted on the current edition OS 1:10,560 map (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 8th August 1995. 

Site no. 22 Sangobeg   NMRS Number: NC46NW 17 Location: NC 427 661 Site Type: Township  Description: A township, comprising five unroofed, twenty-four roofed buildings, one partially roofed building and seventeen enclosures is depicted on the 1st edition OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi). The township has sixteen unroofed and nine roofed buildings on the current edition OS map (1961). Information from RCAHMS. 9th August 1995.

Site no. 23  Leirinmore   NMRS Number: NC46NW 16 Location: NC 421 669 Site Type: Crofting Township   Description: A township, comprising one unroofed and twelve roofed buildings is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi). The township has six unroofed and seventeen roofed buildings on the current OS 1:10,560 map (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 9th August 1995. 

Site no. 24    Leirinmore NMRS Number: NC46NW 23 Location: NC 4215 6716 Site Type: Radar Station  Description: The transmitter block for a Chain Home radar station is situated approximately 70m N of the Smoo Cave Hotel within an area annotated Leirinmore on the current chart copy edition of the OS 1:10560 map (1967). The radar station, which lies to the E of Sango, Smoo radar station (NC46NW 22.00), is visible on vertical air photographs (CPE/Scot/UK/185: 3161-62, flown 1946). Two masts, the transmitter block and the bases of at least two huts are visible on the photographs. Information from RCAHMS, February 1999.
This is possibly a Gee rather than a Chain Home Station, for radio direction of bombers. Information from C Latham and A Stobbs, 1997.  

 

Site no. 25  Smoo Cave  NMRS Number: NC46NW 6    Location: NC 4188 6714 Site Type: Caves – settlement site SMR Number: NC46NW0006 

Scheduled Ancient Monument . Description: Excavated by GUARD – copy reports available from   Highland Council Archaeology Unit

Site no. 26 Smoo  NMRS Number: NC46NW 15 Location: NC 417 669 Site Type: Crofting Township Description: A township, comprising eighteen roofed and two unroofed buildings is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet vi). The township has 16 roofed and 2 unroofed buildings on the current edition OS 1:10,560 map (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 9th August 1995.

 

Site no. 27  Sango Radar Station  NMRS Number: NC46NW22.01  Location: NC 4170 6685   Site Type: Military Camp Description: The accommodation camp and what may be the remote reserve generator house for the radar station are situated to the S of Smoo Lodge. The buildings are visible on vertical air photographs CPE/Scot/UK/185: 3160-61, flown 1946). Information from RCAHMS, February 1999.

 

Site no. 28  Smoo Lodge   NMRS Number: NC46NW 7     Location: NC 4165 6720 Site Type: Gatepiers  Description: Smoo Lodge – Gate piers. Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide: Smoo Lodge – 18th Century and later.  Wide crow-stepped house said to incorporate the 17th Century house of Murdo Lowe. Lowe was an Orkney merchant who traded out of the geo (inlet) of Smoo and is reputed to have employed local women to carry sacks of meal up the steep track from beach to clifftop in return for an oatmeal biscuit. 

Site no. 29  Leirinbeg, Sango Radar Station  NMRS Number: NC46NW Location: NC 4153 6750 Site Type: Radar Station  Description: Sango or Smoo, Chain Home Low Radar Station occupies much of the area annotated Leirinbeg on the current chart copy edition of the OS 1:10560 map, (1967). Several of the buildings, including the transmitter/receiver block (NC 4150 6780), with tracks and bunkers connected with the radar station are depicted on the map. The Radar Station, with at least five upstanding masts (NC c.4189 6770, NC c.4159 6749, NC c.4148 6754, NC c.4136 6754 and NC c.4127 6756) and a further two mast bases A picture from during the second world war period showing the masts of the Radar station at Smoo in the background. (NC c.4175 6764 and NC c.4180 6755), is visible on vertical air photographs (CPE/Scot/UK/185, 3160-61, flown 1946). Many accommodation buildings are also visible, with what may be the remote reserve generator (NC46NW 22.01). Information from RCAHMS and Mr I Brown, February 1999Situated to the N and S side of the A 838 public road, just E of Durness (NC46NW 8). Many buildings are extant connected with the radar and accommodation sites. J Guy 2000; NMRS MS 810/10, Part.1, 4, Vol.3, 4-8

Site no. 30  Geodha Smoo    NMRS Number: NC46NW 10  Location: NC 420 677 Site Type: Landing-Place  Description: None.

Site no. 31 Leirinbeg House  NMRS Number: NC46NW 9.00 Location: NC 4108 6741 Site Type: Residential  Description: None. Alexander Coupar.  Simple, dignified regularly fronted two-storey whitewashed house built for the Sutherland Estate Ground Officer, the datestone enriched with the Stafford arms.  It is said that masons who worked on Cape Wrath Lighthouse were at Leirinbeg when bad weather kept them from the lighthouse.  Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Back to Top LERINBEG HOUSE built in 1830 over looking Sango Bay .  Lived in now as a private home.

Site no. 32  Church of Scotland   NMRS Number: NC46NW 27   Location: NC 4041 6693 Site Type: Church  Description: None. Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Sangomore, 1844.  William Henderson, remodelled 1891.  White-harled, plain former Free Church with entry in north-facing gable crowned with bellcote.

Site no. 33  The Old Manse   NMRS Number: NC46NW 26  Location: NC 4038 6688 Site Type: Manse  Description: None. Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide: 1885-86 and1830; drawing- and dining-room addition 1865.  Plain house with mural sundial.  Re-used moulded doorpiece dated 1727 inscribed MMD (Murdoch MacDonald) and God sees you.  The Revd Murdoch macDonald (1969-1763) became Minster of Durness in 1726; an accomplished musician, he was well-known as a most melodious and powerful singer and as a supported of the local Gaelic poet, Rob Donn, who composed an elegy in his memory.  (Note: this is an extract from a more detailed entry about the Old Manse contained in the book). 

 

Site no. 34  Durine School/Schoolhouse   NMRS Number: NC46NW 25    Location: NC 4031 6760 Site Type: School

Site no. 35   Durness Inn  NMRS Number: NC46NW 21   Location: NC 403 677 Site Type: Inn Description: Destroyed by fire in 1908 and the ruins remained until 1952?

Site no. 36 Durness Durine NMRS Number: NC46NW 8    Location: NC 4031 6775 Site Type: Crofting Township  Description: Dr Close-Brooks notes the generally older houses gable-end on to road, newer houses side-on. Narrow crofts run back from houses. Information from Dr J Close-Brooks, 1986

Site no. 37  Balvolich, Durness   NMRS Number: NC36NE 82  Location: NC 3982 6783 Site Type: Building (possible)  Description: What may be an unroofed building is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1878, sheet v) and is shown as unroofed on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1991). Information from RCAHMS, 14th August 1995.

Site no. 38  Durine, Durness   NMRS Number: NC36NE 81 Location: NC 399 673 Site Type: Crofting Township  Description: A crofting township containing seventeen roofed and two unroofed buildings is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map    (Sutherland 1878, sheet v). The township has eight roofed and five  unroofed buildings on the current OS 1:10,000 maps: NC46NW (1961). Information from RCAHMS, 14th August 1995. 

 

Site no. 39  Durness   NMRS Number: NC46NW 3 Location: NC 40 67 Site Type: Find spot SMR Number: NC46NW0003 Description: In Dunrobin Castle Museum is a ‘Bronze swivel, about 2,000 years old, from Durness’ (NC 40 67). Visited by Ordnance Survey, 1st July 1960.
A sketch of the swivel is given in a letter from J M Joass, Golspie, to Dr J Anderson, National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), which suggests that it had been found shortly before. He says in a second letter that the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, after seeing a sketch of it, calls it Late Celtic and believes that it might be from horse gear or a dog collar, although too heavy for the jesses of a falcon. Joass adds that its Celtic character suggests a local origin although Durness was a Viking station. Letters from J M Joass, 10 December 1894 and 20 February 1895.
A bronze swivel, total length 1.8ins, consisting of two cast hemispheres connected by a ball and socket joint, each having a similar loop, 1.85ins across, swelling into animal heads where they are attached to the hemispheres. Surface much worn (Accession No: 109). Information from TS catalogue of Dunrobin Museum (A S Henshall to Ordnance Survey) 

 

Site no. 40  Loch Caladail    NMRS Number: NC36NE 43 Location: NC 393 667 Site Type: Enclosures  Description: (A: NC 3949 6687; B: NC 3938 6684; C: NC 3937 6674; D: NC 3937 6663; E: NC 3827 6649) Enclosures. Visible on Ordnance Survey air photographs 64.457. (Undated) annotation on Ordnance Survey record card.
‘A’ is a natural rock formation. ‘B’ is a sub-rectangular enclosure on a steep, E-facing slope. It measures 10.5m N-S by 9.0m within a spread, turf-covered wall, 1.5m wide and up to 0.5m high. The interior follows the natural steep slope. The age of the enclosure is unknown, but it is probably early modern.’C’: No artificial platform or enclosure. ‘D’, at NC 3938 6663, is a distinctly pear-shaped enclosure measuring 10.5m WSW-ENE by 7.5m within a spread bank, 1.5m wide and 0.3m high. There is no surface evidence of stone in the bank. The sloping interior shows no indication of levelling. No entrance is visible. The date and purpose of the enclosure are unknown, but it may pre-date the early modern period. ‘E’ is a natural platform by erosion. ‘B’ and ‘D’ surveyed at 1:2500. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 1st May 1980. 

 

Site no. 41 Loch Caladail    NMRS Number: NC36NE 21  Location: NC 3909 6645 Site Type: Settlement (Possible)  Description: NC 3909 6645. An occupation site may have existed on an   eroded sand-hill, from which Mr Campbell (G Campbell, Achins,         Durness) has obtained a few medieval or later pot-sherds and pieces of             metal. It may have been abandoned because of shifting sand. No evidence    of building was seen. The finds are in Mr Campbell’s possession, as is a   quantity of water-worn stones and pebbles of no archaeological value. Visited by Ordnance Survey 4th June 1959.
No trace and no further information.  Visited by Ordnance Survey, 20th July 1971.
No change to previous field report.  Visited by Ordnance Survey, 9th May 1980.
A survey was undertaken along a proposed water pipeline route close to   Durness. The assessment was designed to identify and evaluate any archaeological monuments present in the areas, through the examination of documentary sources and fieldwalking.  The results of this work suggested that, although the locality is rich in archaeological remains, the pipeline successfully avoids all but a few monuments of lesser worth. Only previously unrecorded monuments are presented in the following  list:
NC 3875 6607 (centre) Rig and furrow.
NC 3876 6603 to NC 3881 6609 Turf bank.
NC 3890 6604 to NC 3892 6608 Turf bank.
NC 3894 6606 Penannular stone feature.
NC 3923 6598 to NC 3926 6601 to NC 3930 6609 Fieldbank.
NC 3936 6602 Small stone pile.
NC 3914 6600 Sheepfold.
NC 3921 6609 to NC 3926 6611 Turf dyke.
NC 3923 6611 (centre) Rig and furrow.
NC 3909 6600 to NC 3910 6609 to NC 3906 6637 Field bank. Gap  between NC 3910 6605 and NC 39106606
NC 3881 6616
(centre) Turf banked, rectilinear enclosure.
The entry noted that a report would be lodged with NMRS. Sponsor: Highland Regional Council. (T Neighbour 1995).
Note:  This site was the subject of a site visit on 10th May 2004. With the exception of the turf dykes/ banks and some evidence of rig and furrow, the features recorded above were not easily identifiable.  It is considered that this site would not be a good candidate for interpretation to the general public, particularly as better (ie, more easily identifiable) examples can be seen in the Loch Croispol area. 

 

Site no. 42 Loch Caladail West  NMRS Number:NC36NE 35 Location: NC 393 663 Site Type: Hut-Circles  Description:  (‘A’: NC 3927 6639 & ‘B’: NC 3933 6632 & ‘C’: NC 3928 6629) Huts or enclosures. Visible on OS air photographs 68.057: 090-1 (flown 15th April 1968) A settlement of three oval stone-walled huts (A-C). Heavy peat growth over the surrounding area and no trace of contemporary cultivation. ‘A’ measures 11.5m NW-SE by 10.0m transversely between the centres of a wall, obscured by peat, spread to indeterminate width width except in the NE where two outer facing stones are evident and the wall is spread to 2.5m. The entrance in the SE is ill-defined. ‘B’ measures 13.5m NW-SE by 11.0m transversely. The wall is mainly obscured by peat except in the NW where it incorporates a rocky outcrop. The entrance in the SE is ill-defined. ‘C’ measures 10.0m WNW-ESE by 8.5m transversely between the centres of a wall, obscured by peat and spread to an indeterminate width. The entrance in the SE is ill-defined. The S arc is scarcely discernible. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22nd July 1971. No change to the previous field report. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 21st April 1980. Note:  This site was walked was the subject of a visit on 10th May 2004.  The features previously recorded were not easily identifiable, and there was some doubt as to whether all are actually hut circles as opposed to natural features or later sheep-related structures.  It is considered that this site would not be a good candidate for interpretation to the general public, particularly as better (ie, more easily identifiable) examples can be seen in the Loch Croispol area. 

 

Site no. 43 Loch Meadaidh   NMRS Number: NC36SE 5  Location: NC 398 640 Site Type: Shieling-Huts  Description: ( Centred NC 398 640) Old Shielings (NAT) (Remains of) OS 6″map, (1961) NC 3978 6401. Situated at the head of Loch Meadie on low-lying ground which has been cleared are approximately twelve shieling foundations mostly of square plan. There are no circular ones among them. They lie between two streams and all are considerably mutilated. They vary from 3.0m by 2.4m to 5.0m by 2.4m and 0.2m maximum height. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 7th April 1960. No change to the previous field report. Visited by Ordnance Survey,  21st November 1978. 

 

Site no. 44 Bealach Mor    NMRS Number: NC36SE 8  Location: NC 38 60 Site Type: Chapel (Possible)  Description: ‘The red priest is believed to have built a chapel at Bealoch Mhor between Durness (NC 403 677) and Eriboll (NC 432 565) at which the inhabitants of Eriboll occasionally worshipped . . . The red priest is said to have been the last incumbent of Farr (NC 7163) or of Durness previously to the Reformation and withal a worker of miracles.’ (OPS 1855). The only ‘Bealach Mor’ between Durness and Eriboll would appear to be at NC 3860. It seems ridiculous to suggest that the inhabitants of Eriboll worshipped here but the name ‘Ach na h’ Anaite’ (NC 385 656) might have some relevance. ‘The Red Priest’ is also associated with Durness church (NC36NE 1) which, in turn, is associated with St Maelrubha. (See also Applecross (NG74NW 1) for the association of St Maelrubha and the ‘Red Priest’.) Orig Paroch Scot 1855; Information contained in letter from E McIver to J Loch . No further information was found locally regarding this site. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22 April 1980. 

 

Site no. 45   Allt An Tighe   NMRS Number: NC35NE 6  Location: NC 3875 5877 Site Type: Cairn Scheduled Ancient Monument Description: (NC 3875 5877) A cairn, 25 ft by 16 ft, with an upright pointed stone at the SW end, lies at a height of 1075 ft about 80 yds N of NC35NE 3. R Reid 1968; Information from Dr C S Sandeman, Durness, 14th March 1967. This is a natural accumulation of broken slab in a glacial field. It is a feature of the area. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 15th April 1980. Scheduled with NC35NE 2, 3 and 5 as Meall nan Cra, cairns . Information from Historic Scotland , scheduling document dated 13th December 2000. 

 

Site no. 46  Allt An Tighe   NMRS Number: NC35NE 5   Location: NC 3870 5874 Site Type: Cairn  Scheduled Ancient Monument Description: (NC 3870 5874) A cairn lies, at an elevation of 1075ft, about 100yds NW of NC35NE 2. It is constructed of thin slabs placed on edge with their long axes tangential to the ‘circle’, 17 ft by 14 ft. R Reid 1968; Information from Dr C S Sandeman, Durness, 14th March 1967. This is a natural accumulation of broken slab in a glacial field. It is a feature of the area. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 15th April 1980. Scheduled with NC35NE 2, 3 and 6 as Meall nan Cra, cairns . Information from Historic Scotland , scheduling document dated 13th December 2000. 

 

Site no. 47  Allt An Tighe   NMRS Number: NC35NE 3  Location: NC 3875 5869 Site Type: Cairn  SMR Number: NC35NE0003   Scheduled Ancient Monument Description: (NC 3875 5869) A possible cairn, oval, measuring 16 ft by 13 ft, lies about 80 ft NW of NC35NE 2. R Reid 1968; Information from Dr C S Sandeman, Durness, 14th March 1967. This is a natural accumulation of broken slab in a glacial field. It is a feature of the area. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 15th April 1980. Scheduled with NC35NE 2, 5 and 6 as Meall nan Cra, cairns . Information from Historic Scotland , scheduling document dated 13th December 2000. 

 

Site no. 48  Allt An Tighe   NMRS Number: NC35NE 2  Location: NC 3877 5866 Site Type: Cairn   Scheduled Ancient Monument Description: NC 3877 5866. A large round cairn is situated on fairly level ground NE of Carn an Righ at a height of 1050 ft OD. It measures 19.0m in diameter with a maximum height of 4.0m, but the W half only remains, the E half having been extensively robbed. It is formed of small broken stones and is partly heather and turf covered. In the centre, a number of flat stones, not in situ, possibly represent the remains of a cist.  Visited by Ordnance Survey, 3rd June 1959. This is a natural mound of shattered rock in a glacial field. There are several similar mounds in the area.  Published survey (6″) deleted.  Visited by Ordnance Survey, 15th April 1980. The Ordnance Survey surveyor (15th April 1980) is incorrect in his description and the earlier visit in 1959 is more accurate. This is a large D-shaped cairn which may be chambered, although the slumped internal slab-built construction makes this hard to determine for certain. There are also a number of smaller cairns nearby.  Information contained in a letter from Historic Scotland (Dr N Fojut), dated 16th August 2000. Scheduled with NC35NE 3, 5 and 6 as Meall nan Cra, cairns . Information from Historic Scotland , scheduling document dated 13 December 2000. 

 

Site no. 49  Loch Caladail   NMRS Number: NC36NE 22  Location: NC 3949 6612 Site Type: Cairn: Kerb  Description: On a rise, a cairn 10.7m overall diameter and 0.8m high, partly robbed but not deep enough to expose a cist. Six boulders (two displaced) of the kerb survive in the SE arc. The rest of the kerb has been removed, leaving a trench 0.7m wide by 0.3m deep in which the boulders were embedded. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 5th April 1960 and 22nd July 1971. 

 

Site no. 50  Loch Caladail   NMRS Number: NC36NE 11  Location: NC 391 660 Site Type: Settlement  Description: Two well-defined hut circles: ‘A’ – A circle of stones with a slight bank in places. It measures 8.2m by 9.2m with a 1.0m wide entrance on the E. The interior is slightly scooped, the floor lying 0.7m below the bank. ‘B’ – A bank of earth and stones 0.7m high by 1.0m broad. A revetting kerb is clearly visible on the NW and the entrance is in the NE. It lies at the base of a rocky scarp. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 7th April 1960. Three other huts (D, E and F) noted by Dr Sandeman at NC 3917 6614, NC 3915 6607 and NC 3919 6601. Information from Dr C S Sandeman, Durness, 14 March 1967. A settlement of six stone-walled huts (A – F), centred at NC 391 660. Apart from two or three denuded stone clearance heaps near hut ‘F’, there is no trace of contemporary cultivation. The area is enclosed by later walls and has been used for rough grazing. ‘A’ is circular, measuring 9.5m in diameter between the centres of a wall spread to 2.5m. The outer face is visible in the W and the inner face in the N. The simple entrance is in the E. Inside the hut are several stones which have rolled from the wall. ‘B’ is oval, measuring 7.0m NE-SW by 6.0m transversely between the centres of a wall spread to 2.0m. The outer wall face is apparent in the NE. The simple entrance is in the NE. ‘C’ and ‘D’ are identical and measure 10.0m E-W by 8.5m transversely between the centres of a wall spread to 2.5m. Each has a mutilated entrance in the E. There is a swallow hole in the centre of ‘C’. ‘E’ measures 10.5m in diameter between the centres of a wall spread to 2.5m. The simple entrance in the ESE is flanked on the N side of an earthfast stone. Immediately outside the entrance on the S side is an outer wall facing stone. Some 4.0m outside the entrance is a mound which is probably a contemporary ramp leading to the hut door. ‘F’, heavily overgrown with peat, measures 9.0m in diameter between the centres of a wall spread to about 2.0m. There is an earthfast stone on the S side of the simple entrance which is in the E. There is also an earthfast stone on the outside wall in the N.  Visited by Ordnance Survey, 21st July 1971. This settlement of six hut circles among undulating limestone country is as described in the previous field report. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 14th November 1978. Note:  This site was the subject of a site visit on 10th May 2004.  The features previously recorded were not easily identifiable, and the site is situated at some distance on foot from the village of Durness .  It is considered that this site would not be a good candidate for interpretation to the general public, particularly as better (ie, more easily identifiable and closer to the village) examples can be seen in the Loch Croispol area. 

 

Site no. 51  Cnoc Na Moine NMRS Number: NC36NE 85 Location: NC 3914 6600 Site Type: Sheepfold  Description: A survey was undertaken along a proposed water pipeline route close to Durness. The assessment was designed to identify and evaluate any archaeological monuments present in the areas, through the examination of documentary sources and fieldwalking. The results of this work suggested that, although the locality is rich in archaeological remains, the pipeline successfully avoids all but a few monuments of lesser worth. Sponsor: Highland Regional Council. (T Neighbour 1995). 

 

Site no. 52  Cape Wrath Hotel   NMRS Number: NC36NE 13  Location: NC 3898 6609 Site Type: Chambered Cairn  Description: The heavily robbed remains of an Orkney-Cromarty round cairn with a polygonal chamber (A S Henshall 1972), found during field investigation (OS [JLD] 7 April 1960). Peat covers the remains of the cairn material but a slight bank round the W and N sides seems to represent the original edge of the cairn giving a diameter of between 55 ft and 65 ft. The cairn material seems to have spread beyond the original edge on the E and S, the orthostats of the chamber standing in the resulting slight hollow with varying amount of cairn material surrounding them. Robbing has been heaviest behind the chamber, inside which there is about 3 ft of stone. A S Henshall 1972, visited 1963; Visited by Ordnance Survey, 7th April 1963. Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide: Cape Wrath Hotel, Keoldale (also Keodale).  From c 1835.  Typical double-pile north-west Sutherland estate house similar to Melvich Hotel and Scourie; crow-stepped gables, diagonal chimney stacks, balck and white paintwork.  Unusual small circular walled gardens.  Set in green fields on a sheltered site on the shores of the Kyle of Durness, Keoldale was long occupied but the Balnakeil factors of the Lords of Reay, whose principal residence was at Tongue. 

 

Site no. 53  Keodale   NMRS Number: NC36NE 12   Location: NC 3888 6640 Site Type: Cairn; Mound  Description: The remains of a cairn, 12.5m in diameter and 1.2m high, now turf-covered and considerably mutilated. The footings of a small house encroach on the E side. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 8th April 1960. Some 20m to the NE is another mound, 9.0m in diameter and about 1.0m high, which shows some stone content; possibly a cairn. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 23rd July 1971. The cairn published by the Ordnance Survey is as described by Ordnance Survey field surveyor.  The mound to the NE is heather-covered, contrasting sharply with the turf mantle of the cairn, and though some stone is apparent in its content, it cannot be classified with certainty as a cairn, and it may even be a natural accumulation. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 28th May 1980 

 

Site no. 54  Cnoc Na Moine, North   NMRS Number: NC36NE 48  Location: NC 3892 6627 Site Type: Cairn Description: At NC 3892 6627 on top of a knoll is an oval, turf-covered stony mound about 8.5m by 6.5m. Possible cairn, possibly natural. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22nd July 1971. This is probably a cairn, prominently situated on a knoll in a similar position to the example 150m to the NNW (NC36NE 12). It appears to be composed of rubble stones, but is disturbed, surviving to a height of 0.3m. No cist or kerb is exposed, and what remains is too slight to enable sound classification. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22nd May 1980. 

 

Site no. 55 Cape Wrath Hotel NMRS Number: NC36NE 14 Location: NC 3906 6613 Site Type: Cairn: Kerb  SMR Number: NC36NE0014   Scheduled Ancient Monument Description: An approximately circular setting of six large stones which appears to be the kerb of a robbed cairn about 15.5m in diameter. It is situated on the summit of a knoll.  Visited by Ordance Survey, 7th April 1960. The poor remains of a robbed cairn surviving as a rim of cairn material, about 14.0m in diameter and 0.2m in height. Within the cairn, and outside it on the N, are about twelve boulders, some earthfast, presenting no intelligible plan, which probably constitute part of a displaced kerb. These boulders are very similar to the kerb of the cairn described on NC36NE Visited by Ordnance Survey, 21st July 1971. 

 

Site no. 56  Cnoc Na Moine   NMRS Number: NC36NE 34 Location: NC 391 659 Site Type: Hut-Circles  Dscription: NC 3918 6593) Probable hut circle with a most unusual entrance; 27 1/2 ft by 28 ft.  (NC 3918 6597) (i) Ruined hut circle, overall 36 ft. (ii) Some 50 ft to the S is a hut circle, with a complex entrance facing E; overall 32 ft. Information from Dr C S Sandeman, Durness, 14th March 1967. (NC 391 659) A group of three hut circles (A – C) lying between the 150 ft and 175 ft contours.  ‘A’, at NC 3918 6593, is bult against a steep bank. It measures 29 ft by 37 ft 6 ins overall and has an extended entrance.  ‘B’ at NC 3918 6597, measures 36ft overall.  ‘C’ lies about 50 ft S of ‘B’ and has measured about 32 ft overall. The entrance is sheltered by a boomerang-shaped arrangement of stones, thought to have protected a cooking-fire.  RWK Reid 1968. The site, in a valley of broken limestone country, comprises two hut circles (‘A’ and ‘C’). ‘B’ was not certainly identified, but an arc of walling at the given location has possibly been interpreted as a hut. ‘A’, at NC 3918 6592, is as described above, being 8.0m N-S by 6.0m internally. The elongated entrance in the S is 2.8m long and 0.7m wide. The hut wall is more evident on the E side, opposite the steep slope, where it is spread to 2.0m and 0.4m high. A number of outer facing stones are visible around this arc.  ‘C’, at NC 3920 6596, is about 7.5m in diameter within a wall spread to 1.5m and 0.3m high. The entrance is in the E with an upright slab 0.5m high probably defining the inner S side. The ‘boomerang-shaped arrangement of stones’ was not noted. A sheep track crossing the hut has slightly disfigured the wall in two places in the S. The wall is best-preserved in the SSE where some outer facing stones show. A small number of widely scattered clearance heaps are the only evidence of contemporary cultivation. 

 

Site no. 57  Balnakeil Church  NMRS Number: NC36NE 1.01 Location: NC 39090 68653 Site Type: Church Description: The remains of the former parish church which was built in 1619 and had an aisle added to the N in 1692. It was in use until about 1814 when the present church was built (at NC 4042 6693). Although somewhat irregular in plan, it is generally typical of its period with a belfry on the E gable. The remains stand to the wall-head, the crow-stepped gables being intact. The earliest reference occurs between 1223 and 1245 when it was assigned to find light and incense for the cathedral church (NH78NE ), but it is said to have been a Celtic foundation of St Maelrubba (6, 7 & 8). An old font known as the ‘Clach na sagart ruadh’ or ‘stone of the red priest’ (cf Applecross – NG74NW 1 – for association of St Maelrubha and ‘the Red Priest’), lay in front of the door of Balnakeil House (NC36NE 4) before 1867 but by 1874 it had been moved to within the church. The church is said to occupy ‘the site of a cell of Dornoch monastery’ (? NH78NE ), but there is no mention of such by Easson. Visible on RAF air photographs CPE/Scot/UK 185: 1150-1: flown 1946. Orig Paroch Scot 1855; J Horsburgh 1870; H Morrison 1883; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1897; RCAHMS 1911; A Mackay 1914; A B Scott 1918; D E Easson 1957. What could be a former, circular, enclosing bank of the churchyard is visible on aerial photographs within the confines of the modern graveyard. D E Easson 1957. The church is well preserved, the walls of rubble masonry being 0.8m thick and averaging 2.3m in height. Externally, the nave measures 13.8m by 6.0m and the aisle 7.7m by 6.0m. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 5th April 1960. This church is as described and planned by MacGibbon and Ross. The font stands within the church and is covered by the top half of a rotary quern. There is no ground trace of the suggested circular graveyard wall. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22nd July 1971. The church is as described by the previous authorities. The font has been removed by persons unknown in recent years. A holy water stoup, now cracked in half, lies immediately inside the church entrance on the S side. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22nd April 1980. Scheduled as Durness Old Church , Balnakeil.  Information from Historic Scotland , scheduling document dated 9 October 2001. Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide: 1619, north aisle 1692, some reconstruction, including gables, 1727-28.  Roofless crowstepped T-plan church with similarities to Tongue Church .  The oldest portion is aligned east-west in pre-Reformation manner, apparently incorporating the ground plan of an earlier medieval church.  Table tomb of Duncan MacMorrach. Memorial in burial ground to Rob Donn, the “Burns of the North”.  (Note: This is an extract of more detailed entry for church and burial ground which can be found in the book)

Site no. 58  Balnakeil House and associated features NMRS Number: NC36NE 4 Location: NC 3919 6863 Site Type: Laird’s House Description: Balnakeil House, built in 1744, occupies the site of the former summer residence of the Bishop of Caithness (D MacGibbon and T Ross 1891), which was presumably the ‘Castle of Durinas’ referred to by Gordon in 1630 as having existed at ‘Baill-ne-Kill’. Balnacille mannour, there was to be seen – till this last year (i.e. 1725) that it was thrown down for building a new house – the ruins of an old wall about eight or nine foot thick and in some places thirty foot high, without any window thereon, it seemed to extend on the one side one hundred foot long, and in breadth forty foot; there is no tradition by whom it was built, or for what purpose; it seems to have been some old monastery (W Macfarlane 1906). (The present house is a mansion in the traditional style, harled, with crowsteps (1967). R Gordon 1813; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1891; W Macfarlane 1906. The house is in use. Visited by Ordnance Survey,  23rd June 1960. Superbly situated on a mound, Balnakeil House may incorporate remains of the bishop’s residence but appears to be basically a laird’s house of the 17th century, altered and extended the following century, forming an E-plan with the main block running N-S and the wings projecting W at either end. The oldest part of the house is said to be the N wing but the walling is very thick in various other parts. The walls are harled and rise to three storeys and a garret, with the gables crow-stepped. N Tranter 1970. No trace of the earlier work. The present house is occupied and is of no outstanding architectural merit. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 22nd July 1971. Balnakeil (nameplate) is situated on a natural rocky mound. No change to previous information. Visited by Ordnance Survey, 15th April 1980. Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide: Commenced in 1720s, allegedly completed c 744.  Incorporates earlier cellars and perhaps earlier fabric in the west (rear) elevation, probably of medieval summer palace of the Bishops of Caithness. Important and handsome crowstepped two-storey, shallow U-plan mansion, this was the occasional residence of the Lords of Reay.   Walled garden is dated 1863, farm steading incorporated the earliest improved buildings in the north-west, disused early 19th Century corn mill served by lade (millstream) diverted from the burn flowing out of Loch Croispol.  Ruined wheelhouse downstream from the mill once housed a wheel and endless wire rope on pulley wheels running up to the steading to motivate threshing machinery and agricultural tasks, the only known detached wheelhouse of its type in the Highlands .  The Balnakeil area is notable for fine drystone dykes enclosing the fields. (Note: This is an extract of a more detailed entry for Balnakeil House and associated buildings which can be found in the book).

Site no. 59  Balnakeil Craft Village   NMRS Number: NC36NE 90 Location: NC 3928 6791 Site Type: Village Description: Post-1939-45 war built village visible on vertical air photographs (V 540/RAF/1631, 0081-0082, flown 1 June 1955). The air photographs show the village under construction. Information from RCAHMS, May 2004 Sutherland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide:1939-1945.  Rehabilitated military encampment of flat-roofed white-painted cabins, quite incogruous in relation to its Highland setting but full of varying enterprise, including hotel and craft workshops.

GUALIN HOUSE, just over eight kilometres from Durness village square on the A838 from Rhiconich overlooking the entrance to Strath Dionard was built in the 1880s as a hotel by the Duke of Sutherland. It is now a fishing and shooting lodge. It was purchased by Commander Ferguson with part of the River Dionard in 1932 from the Elliot Family of Balnakeil. Its situation gives a good starting point for an abundance of splendid walks. About half a mile before, under the cover of Farrmheall, is a well at the roadside. It incorporates an iron trough with a plaque which reads  “1883. As a mark of gratitude and respect to the inhabitants of Durness and Eddrachillis for their hospitality while projecting this road. This inscription is placed over this well by their humble servant, Peter Lawson, surveyor.” Opposite the well can be seen the remote house at Rhigolter where a shepherd, working for Balnakeil Farm, and his family live nestled in the shadow of Beinn Spionnaidh.

Link to site map 10 -30