Fishing and The Lochs

Fishing has always been an important source of food and money. Inshore lobster, crab, scallop and prawn shellfish are activities carried out by a few of the crofters to supplement their incomes. There are one or two small fishing vessels harboured at Rispond and some catches are landed and transported south. There is no large-scale commercial fishing from Durness but some people are employed at the harbour and fishing fleets from Kinlochbervie from time to time. Mackerel, herring and halibut are the most common. Salmon are caught wild usually for immediate consumption and one or two local spots are known for easy poaching.

The common Winkle (Littorina littorea) is occasionally harvested for selling for consumption. It is widely distributed on most of the local rocky shores attached to rocks and weeds. The high and pointed shell is usually dark greyish black.

This area has many celebrated fishing lochs especially those on limestone which are ideal for trout fishing. There is also some salmon and sea fishing. The local proprietors control fresh water angling on the inshore lochs and permits can be obtained. Fly-fishing only is allowed and the trout fishing is of a very high standard. The rights for part of the Loch Croispol, owned by the Church of Scotland are renewed to the highest offer bi-annually. Loch Croispol is nearly one kilometre long and supplied by subterranean streams through the limestone rocks. Loch Croispol is the site of old mines the entrances to which are flooded. Over to the right of the loch there are triangular shaped standing stones.

Loch Borralie, lies in the middle of the peninsula, is about three kilometres long just over a kilometre wide and has a small island two hundred metres long. Loch Lanlish, sited in Durness Golf Course is a relatively small body of water. Loch Caladail and Loch Meadaidh from which Allt Smoo rises and runs about three kilometres to the Smoo Cave where it empties are the largest local lochs. An angling competition usually only entered by local people was held each year in about July/ August on Loch Meadaidh. An event founded within the Gala.

The first edition of the one inch Ordinance survey map (revised to 1896) of the area fails to show Loch Caladail. This is because at that time efforts were taking place to drain the loch for farming land. A ditch, which is quite clearly observed today, can be seen running into the loch and a wall forming a dam has been constructed.

This was the result of efforts before 1847 that were only partially successful in preventing the spot remaining as a water store. It was at that time a marsh about one third of its present size. The Gilmours that used to reside in Smoo Lodge had the loch dammed. This loch also shows an example of a Crannog. A man made island, a prehistoric structure with uncertainty in assigning to a given period. Approximate dating is from the latter stage of the Bronze Age to about one thousand BC. Crannogs were usually used for defence, protection and security or used as a place of refuge. This loch is the only site in the north where Marl, a kind of whitewash could be collected.

Shooting is a sport often associated with fishing and the area has long been popular for deer stalking and game bird shooting. This is still a common practice on the estates during the recognised season. Rabbit culling by shooting is less of a sport due to the high numbers but is occasionally performed.

Clay pigeon shoots were regular local events, approximately four or five a year but in recent years has lacked participation. The Gualin Lodge annual event which used to be held in December attended by invitation only, was held in high regard attracting over fifty guns. The funds raised distributed to local causes within the parish.