Each September Sheep Dog Trials are held in Durness. The Gala committee started the Durness Sheepdog Trials as a local event and the first year they were run, only local handlers took part. They grew to be so popular that Jock Sutherland formed a band of helpers to run the trials attracting handlers from all over Caithness and Sutherland.
The venue for the trials is Keoldale Farm by the Kyle of Durness next to the Cape Wrath Ferry and Cape Wrath Hotel. The setting at the farm is from the man made gap in the dyke at the top of the field, to the exhaust pen which is the farm fank. Balnakeil Farm ewes from the Sarsgrum hirsel are used for the trial – they do not know the escape routes as the Keoldale ewes do! Some of the handlers including top national and international competitors can be seen working their dogs at the Durness trials. Jock Sutherland himself won the County Trials in 1989, was runner up in 1990 and won them again in 1991 with his thirteen-year-old dog Maid. In 1996, he was second in the televised Grampian Sheepdog Trials Novice Brace event.
A committee and sponsors who support them now run the Trials. Over five hundred pounds prize money is on offer with the winner receiving one hundred pounds and a prize which can be a framed portrait of his or her dog. The organisers are out to attract competitors from all over, encouraging local participation. There is a barbecue and refreshments on the site and a raffle with quality prizes.
The Highland Collie dog, Gaelic – cuilean, whelp, used to shepherd the white faced Cheviot is probably the oldest Scottish breed as well as one of the most smart, alert and faithful.