Loch Eriboll

Loch Eriboll is derived from the Norse meaning “home on a gravely beach.” Eyrar-bol ” Sandbank steading.” Bol- a farm, and Eyrr – a beach.Loch Eriboll is derived from the Norse meaning “home on a gravely beach.” Eyrar-bol ” Sandbank steading.” Bol- a farm, and Eyrr – a beach.

Loch Eriboll, Hoan Fjord, is a lengthy and deep sea loch about sixteen kilometres long with a south – west direction and varying from one point five to six point five kilometres in breadth. On the east, it is bounded at the entrance by the clear and elevated rocks of Whiten Head. The waters are of a depth varying from fifteen to sixty fathoms. It is set in panoramic mountain hinterland dominated by Ben Hope.

The east side is green with native lime rich fields, the west a rocky barren coast. The total length of the coastline is over thirty eight kilometres with a wide variety of shore types; bedrock, boulders, shingle, gravel, sand and mud. The main input of fresh water is from Loch Hope situated near the seaward end and by comparison, Strath Beag at the inner end of the loch has a relatively small fresh water catchment area. Tidal streams are weak with only slight acceleration locally around the islands. Exposure to wave action ranges from the open coast at the entrance that is exposed to the north, to shelter in the inner reaches. The innermost parts of the loch have a  considerable fetch to the north-east, and experience occasional wave action.

Loch Eriboll’s most intriguing feature is Ard Neakie. The crescent promontory of Ard Neakie pushes out to the middle from the eastern shore. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow split with two identically curving sandy beaches. Ard Neakie was once the site of a limestone quarry and limestone kilns. Both these features are still visible from the road. The lime was used in the 19th century as a neutralising agent when reclaiming peaty soils for cultivation Prior to this industry, Ard Neakie was one of the centres for a local kelp industry. the ferry house built in 1831 still stands. Ard Neakie is notable for the four large lime kilns built in 1870. The Reay estate produced large amounts of lime here and on the nearby island of Eilean Choraidh.   

Alan Mackay who still lives and works locally had family that lived and worked at Heilam Ferry {Ardneakie} from 1885 to 1893 as boat builders and ferry operator. During the time the ferry was run by his family and there was a shop at Ardneakie.

The ferry continued to operate until the mid-1940s.

Heilam Inn is the house on Ardneakie and ceased to be an inn around the 1850s. The inn was eventually refused a license to sell alcohol because of over indulgence by lime kiln workers, and there was also a sailor stabbed to death outside the house, whether this had any bearing on the loss of the license is unknown The liquor store still stands today. There are written articles about an ammunition store but there was never ammunition stored in the lime kilns but a mine did explode during WWII on the north bay of the peninsular.

The island in the mouth of Loch Eriboll, Eilean Hoan is leased by the RSPB and has been managed as a nature reserve since 1975. Ruins of homesteads are obvious but it was last occupied in the early 1800s. It was known as Howga in 1570 and Haga in 1601. As the name indicates it was the burial place of the Norsemen and probably used by their Gaelic successors.

An island in the loch Eilean Choraidh was once inhabited but has in recent times only been used for grazing sheep from Eriboll Farm. There is evidence of a substantial amount of activity at one time. An island with good soil, fresh water springs on the shore, and ruined remains of shelters and dwellings that must have been in existence before the clearances and settlements at Laid. The survival of the remains of large limestone kilns clearly shows that this was an industrial place at some time. Possibly built by Lord Reay in the late 18th century. There is indication of the time in more recent history, around 1944, when the island was used for target practice with bomb creators and ruined target markers.

Loch Eriboll and HMS HOOD

This loch has been used as a naval anchorage for much of the 20th century. When ships anchored in Loch Eriboll in the 1920s and 1930s some crew members would climb the hill to the west of the loch and leave their ship’s name written in stone letters about two metres high in a patch one by two metres. The best viewing point to see the names is at the first large lay-by beyond Port-na-con road end, at the disused quarry, travelling east and looking directly up the hill with a pair of binoculars, once identified can be distinguished. At this point, a walk to the ship’s names that include the Valiant, Swift, Whirlwind, Union, Unga, Lucretia, Johanna, (a Dutch minesweeper) and H43, the only submarine on the hillside, are within reach. A remarkable memorial that has lain largely unnoticed. Repeated attempts have failed to preserve the names. They include appeals to the Ministry of Defence; the War Grave’s Commission and the Queen. The stones are becoming embedded in the heather and slowly sinking. 

While anchored in Eriboll the captain was requested to move the ship as the radio transmission from the telephone kiosk on the roadside on the east side was unable to communicate with the west side of Eriboll. The ship was preventing and  interfering with the signals.

In 1937, HMS Hood, the worlds biggest battleship anchored in Loch Eriboll – it is the Hood’s tragic history that makes the hillside such a poignant spot. During its nine day stay sailors wrote the name “Hood” in stones on the hillside to the west of the Loch. This continued a tradition started some 10 years earlier by other ships and continued until the 1960’s. The Hood was sunk by the German warship Bismarck off Greenland in 1941 with the loss of 1400 lives, all the crew except for three. The two meter high stones bare mute testimony to the tragic event. The stones were restored by local school children in 1993 and 1999. painted the stones of the HMS Hood and H43 to be visible from the roadside. The stones are becoming embedded in the heather and 

The Mighty Hood as she was known was the single biggest British naval loss in World War 11. When the war started, she was the largest warship in commission in the world. For the whole intra war period from her completion in 1920, HMS Hood had stood as a symbol of Britain’s supremacy as a seapower.A close relationship exists between Durness and the HMS Hood Association.

On The 22nd May 1997, a plaque was unveiled in the privately owned Eriboll church in commemoration of the seamen on HMS Hood. The primary school was presented with a book about Shetland from a family who lost a member on the Hood.

When Prince Charles visited the newly opened health centre and lunched at the Cape Wrath Hotel with senior citizens on the occasion of opening the Kinlochbervie High School he expressed an interest in the school’s participation with the Hood. Durness Primary School is carried out an ongoing investigation into the history of Loch Eriboll and close correspondence is transferred between the school and the Hood Association. In April 1998, they received a limited edition print of the HOOD signed by the last surviving crew member.

A Pier in Eriboll

In the middle of 1998, Wallace Stone and Partners, consulting civil engineers from Inverness proposed three sites for a new pier on the shores of Loch Eriboll. The crofters, fishermen and people with an interest were asked to comment on the draft presentation. Two options were included for a Port-na-con locality. Port-na-con north, requiring a new road to access with landing and parking and storage for pier users. Port-na-con south not to include landing, berthing, parking and  storage. Port Chamuill with landing facilities, parking and storage for pier users only.  The need for a new pier was being presented as  practical because at present there is no full time proper safe and permanently usable utility.

Rispond is dependent on the  tide. Loch Eriboll has an increasing number of local aquaculture operations, an increasing traffic of visiting vessels and there is no appropriate pier for mounting a rescue should it be necessary. Several times since the issue of a pier is brought to discussion and funding sought for studies but to date no further progress has been manifested.

Loch Eriboll was the site of the surrender of the German U-boat fleet in May 1945. Between the 10th and 20th May, over  thirty U-boats came into Loch Eriboll.

 

In the blizzard of January 1955, the aircraft carrier Glory arrived at Loch Eriboll  and with her helicopter was able to bring food and medical help to the district.

Please visit the official site and Czech Hood fan site for more information. The official HMS Hood site 
http://www.hmshood.com/ Czech Hood fan site http://www.voodoo.cz/hood/

Loch Eriboll Aquaculture Framework Plan 

 

Produced by The Planning and Development Service, The Highland Council August 2000.

 

Loch Eriboll is the only sea loch on Scotland’s north coast and it is one of the most remote from the main centres of population. The development of aquaculture here helps to generate employment and income in a very sparsely populated area which has a limited range of economic alternatives. 

 

The objectives of the framework plan for Loch Eriboll are:

  1. to identify opportunities for aquaculture development compatible with other interests.

  2. to raise public awareness of the multi-faceted resources of Loch Eriboll and its environs.

  3. to safeguard the natural heritage interest of the area – its landscape, and coastal and marine nature conservation interest.

  4. to identify and safeguard the recreation/tourism assets of the loch.

  5. to identify infrastructure investment priorities to support the development of aquaculture and to maximise the general economic and recreational value of the loch

The Wreck of the Sark