top of page

Kyle of Durness, Mountain ranges and Rivers

The A838 road runs along the eastern shore of the Kyle of Durness in its southern section, with an unclassified road leading to Keoldale. The Cape Wrath road runs along the shore from the ferry slipway. This dates from the 1830s having been built to supply the lighthouse at Cape Wrath. A previous landing site towards the mouth of the Kyle was originally used and is the site of a ruined storehouse. This road was constructed in or shortly after 1828 to link a storehouse and slipway (NC36NE 103) at the north end of the Kyle of Durness with the lighthouse (NC27SE 3.00) at Cape Wrath. The storehouse and slipway went out of use in the 1830s, after another slipway was built at Ferry House, about 4km to the south, and a new section of road (NC36NE 101) built to link that slipway to the existing road. (Royal Commission on the ancient and historical monuments of Scotland) This is the slipway used to the summer excursion and access to Cape Wrath.

Land to the north of Keoldale is used by the Keoldale Sheep Stock Club, a joint farm run by crofters in the Durness area. Beaches along the shore of the Kyle are backed by narrow machair with few dunes. The western shore of the Kyle is uninhabited with the former farmsteads at Achimore and Daill the only settlements.

Unlike the other inlets on the north coast of Scotland, the Kyle of Durness is not straight, but contains two major bends, the more southerly of which is a right angle. At the outer edge of this right angle, a sandy beach has formed, and behind it a machair slopes up to the 50m limestone plateau which lies between the Kyle and the village of Durness.(Beaches of Sutherland, Scottish Natural Heritage) The shoreline is generally precipitous and rugged with intervening bays of sand or shingle. At ebb, it appears as a large field of sand. Near its entrance on the west side of Balnakeil Bay are bars and shallows that frequently shift their position with north winds. Entry is therefore denied to all but those smaller vessels with familiar crews. This firth is about ten kilometres long and averages over one point five kilometres wide

The Kyle of Durness washes over huge sand banks, which are quite beautiful but can make a dangerous crossing. It has never been used frequently for shelter or commerce and is little visited by vessels.

At Solmar, there is evidence of small vessels that once frequented the Kyle. Set back from the site of a natural pier are typical community ruins of the 17th and 18th century people living in groups of four to five families. It is said that a wrecked ship lies in the mouth of the Kyle buried under the sand bars.

Two rivers empty themselves at the top of the Kyle.

The River Grudie, which consists of a number of burns which drain the northern slopes of Creag Riabhach, Farmheall and Ghias Bheinn. The bridge at the estuary to reach the shepherd’s house was constructed in July 1986 by Condor Troop 59 Independent Commando Squadron of the Royal Engineers.

The River Dionard whose source is in the mountains south of Loch Eriboll and rises on the north eastern slopes of Meall Horn at seven hundred and seventy seven metres; its upper courses traversing Lochan Ulabhith, An Dubh Loch and Loch Dionard four hundred and twenty metres above sea level running a distance of twenty three and a half kilometres; is a rapid river especially when swelled by tributary streams. The river produces good numbers of salmon and grilse in the summer, as well as the more numerous sea trout. The Dionard is a spate river, requiring rain to give of its best but, on a falling spate salmon and sea trout can be caught in good numbers. The main runs enter the river from June onwards, with August perhaps the best month for salmon. 

The River Daill rises on the slopes of Fashven flowing through Loch Airigh na Beinne and the smaller Loch Bad na Fheur and enters the Kyle near the mouth.

The Kervaig River rises in the Lochs na Gainmhich, Loch na Glaic Tarsuinn and Lochan na Glamhaich under the mountains of Fashven, Cnoc na Glaic Tarsuinn and Beinn Dearg and runs about five kilometres into the Atlantic Ocean near the most north westerly point.

In the Parph, there are several mountain ranges from four hundred and sixty to near eight hundred metres in height, from Sgribhisbheinn on the north to Farmheall on the south. Fairbheinn has a conical shape, and appears isolated from these and the other ranges of Creigriabhach and Bendearg, which have a south west direction gradually diminishing to the Western Ocean. There are no valleys of any note though several deep ravines.

In an area of about one hundred and twenty nine square kilometres from the west of Eriboll the chief elevations are Beinn Ceannabeinne three hundred and eighty three, Meallmeadhonoch four hundred and twenty two, Ben Spionnaidh, about seven hundred and seventy two metres, and Cranstackie, eight hundred metres, which take a south west direction and the mountains of Foinaven eight hundred and sixty seven metres and Meallhorn seven hundred and seventy seven metres which take a south east direction.


Strath Dionard runs up the Kyle of Durness and by the water of Dionard to the south base of Fairemheall and then takes a south east direction between Foinaven and Cranstackie extending a distance of about twenty three kilometres. At the upper end of Loch Eriboll is Strathbeg a narrow but fertile vale of about three kilometres in length scarcely one kilometre in breadth.

bottom of page