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Issue 16 - Sutherland

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 16
September 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

Copyright Scotland Magazine © 1999-2018. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.


The best places to visit, stay and eat, by Sally Toms

What to do and see

North and West

Guided Walks
The Highland Council Ranger Service organises activities and walks throughout the area. Your own personal ranger will tell you everything there is to know about the landscape and local wildlife. Lochinver’s ranger is Andy Summers:
Tel: +44 (0)571 844 654

Highland School of Fly Fishing
If your idea of heaven consists of a boat, a secluded loch, and plenty of hard fighting wild brown trout, then there may be no better place in the world. There are also some excellent salmon and sea-trout fishing in the surrounding area.
Tel: +44 (0)1854 666 334

Highland Stoneware Pottery
A modern, large-scale pottery making distinctive hand painted ceramics, including a shop, warehouse, and studios where you can watch the potters at work.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 376

Smoo Cave
Nr. Durness
The largest limestone cave in Britain; 200 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 50 feet high at the entrance. There is evidence the cave was in use by the earliest inhabitants of the district, some 6,000 years ago. Now, however, the interiors are floodlit so that you can explore the vast inner chambers on foot and by boat.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 259

Cape Wrath
The Cape is known as being the most north-westerly point of the British mainland and the 240º view is truly spectacular to behold. The lighthouse stands an impressive 121 metres above sea level and is well worth a visit, but can only be reached by ferry boat and then 12 miles by minibus, or on foot.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 343

Cape Sea Tours
Boat tours are a great way to fully appreciate the spectacular scenery and wildlife around the Cape – such as rock stacks, seabird colonies, seals and porpoises.
Tel. +44 (0)1971 511 284

Cape Adventure International
Nr. Kinlochbervie
For those more adventurous among us, Cape Adventure International offers day or week courses between May and September, such as sea kayaking, land yachting, surfing, rock climbing, abseiling, and orienteering.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 521 006

Balnakeil Craft Village
A charmingly hippy craft village inside a disused radar station less than a mile from Durness, where many painters, potters and sculptors live and work. There is also a bookshop and restaurant, and nearby the beautiful 17th century ruins of Balnakeil church is a must-see.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 777

Mid and East

Royal Dornoch Golf Club
This championship golf course is said to be among the best 20 anywhere in the world. The course is now a 6,500 yard classic links, with the first eight holes following the natural contours of the dunes, and the rest flanking the beaches of Dornoch Bay.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 810 283

RSPB Forsinard
This is the place to learn about the unique environment of the flow country. On one of the regular guided walks you will see rare birds such as the golden plover, dunlin, merlin, greenshank, black throated diver and hen harrier. That’s as well as carnivorous sundew plants, dragonflies, water beetles and red deer.
Tel: +44 (0)1641 571 225

Dornoch Cathedral
This 13th century cathedral has been neglected, burnt down, and built up several times since it was first erected in 1224, but its medieval character and understated splendour remains.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 810 296

Skibo Castle
A vast, indulgent estate with the ambience of an Edwardian gentleman’s club complete with silk wallpaper, wood panelling, Rolls Royces, golf club, spa, etc. Visitors may sample this luxury once, but to return you must be a member.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 894 600

Falconry Courses
Learn the traditional Scottish art of falconry in this spectacular area of the Highlands. Includes hunting with hawks or falcons and courses in the handling, training and care of raptors.
Tel: +44 (0)1408 622 865

Durnrobin Castle
Nr. Golspie
Seat of the earls and dukes of Sutherland, this beautiful castle with a French influence sits looking out across the North Sea and is well worth a visit. With 189 rooms, it is the largest house in the Northern Highlands, parts of it dating back to the 1300s. There are many collections of furniture, pictures, objets d’art, uniforms, china and family memorabilia also on display.
Tel: +44 (0)1408 633 177

Gold panning
On a beautiful day, there is surely nothing more peaceful or relaxing than sitting on a boulder with your feet in the river Kildonan panning for gold. It’s free, but you can hire the equipment from a shop (that doubles as the Helmsdale tourist information centre) on Helmsdale harbour for a small charge.
Tel: +44 (0)1431 821 402

Where to Eat

North and West

The Caberfeidh
This lively ‘local’ has a friendly atmosphere, and serves such delights as haggis with Drambuie cream.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 428

Culag Hotel
This 200 year old waterfront building was originally built as a smokehouse, today it is a very fine hotel and restaurant.
Tel: + 44 (0)1571 844 270

The Fishermen’s Mission
The Pier, Lochinver
After a long, wet, walk to Suilven peak this refuge offers hot tea, fish and chips, friendly banter, and other hiker necessities such as a shower and laundry facilities.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 456

Lochinver Larder &
Riverside Bistro
Main Street, Lochinver Coffee shop by day, bistro by night, this fantastic little eatery serves all kinds of local produce, including Ian Stewart’s home-made pies and calorific cakes.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 356

Loch Croispol Bookshop &
Balnakeil Craft Village, Durness For lunches and snacks. The food is excellent in this recommended restaurant.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 777

Mid and East

2 Quail Restaurant
Castle Street, Dornoch
The best restaurant north of Inverness; intimate, comfortable, friendly, with great gourmet food. Book early. Also has three rooms and is the only AA five diamond bed & breakfast in the whole of Sutherland.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 811 811

Castle Street, Dornoch
This charming seaside-style café offers a wide range of sandwiches, toasties, home-made cakes and ice-cream.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 810 893

Sutherland House
Argyle Street, Dornoch
An established restaurant that offers a range of traditional Scottish food such as haggis, seafood, and home made sweets at a reasonable price.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 811 023

Where to Stay

North and West

The Albannach
Baddidarroch, Lochinver
Arguably the finest hotel in the village. A unique and comfortable haven with great views of Suilven, and a superb five course dinner.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 407

Ardglas Guest House
Inver, Lochinver
This is a comfortable, friendly, and very reasonably priced guesthouse.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 257

Gaelic meaning ‘eye of the sea’ and providing just that, this Bed & Breakfast comes highly recommended.
Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 535

Puffin Cottage
Durine, Durness
This particularly good bed & breakfast was awarded three stars by the VisitScotland.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 208

Sango Sands Oasis
Sangomore, Durness
There are campsites all over Sutherland, but this one has the luxury of having a restaurant.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 222

Mid and East

Carbisdale Castle
Culrain, Nr. Dornoch
Not far from Dornoch, this impressive castle/youth hostel also has its own statue gallery, art collection and ghost (apparently).
Tel: +44 (0)8701 553 255

The Eagle Hotel
Castle Street, Dornoch
An attractive hotel with a friendly pub-like atmosphere.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 810 008

Dornoch Castle Hotel
Everything you would expect from a 16th century castle, a huge stone fireplace, turrets, dungeons, and oodles of atmosphere. Not surprisingly, given its name, Dornach Castle is also a hotel.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 810 216

Fourpenny Cottage
Fourpenny, Dornoch
This charming bed & breakfast has also has the claim of being the first piece of land sold in the district, for – you guessed it – four pence.
Tel: +44 (0)1862 810 727

Royal Marine & Links Hotels
Golf Road, Brora
Traditional highland hotels and self catering apartments offering a choice of four restaurants, three bars and a leisure club. Visit Dunrobin castle and Clynelish malt whisky distillery only one mile away
Tel: +44 (0)1408 621252

Travel Facts


Getting there:

By air:
Sutherland has a choice of two international airports, at Wick and Inverness, where you are sure to find a national or international flight to suit.
Highlands and Islands Airports:
Inverness +44(0)1667 462 445
Wick: +44 (0)1955 602 215

By road:
From Inverness, the A9 northbound runs along the south west coast via Dornoch, Brora, Golspie and Helmsdale. Tim Dearman Coaches operate a service into Sutherland

By rail:
The railway line runs from Inverness to Wick through the villages on the southwest coast

Did you know?

• Clo Mor Cliffs, near Cape Wrath, are the highest cliffs in Great Britain. The cliffs have a drop of 281 metres
• There are no roundabouts or traffic lights in Sutherland
• The last witch to be burned in Scotland was set alight in Dornoch in 1772. She was accused of turning her daughter into a horse and having her shod by the devil
• Singer Madonna and filmmaker husband Guy Ritchie were married in Skibo Castle and christened their son, Rocco, in Dornoch Cathedral
• Beatles member John Lennon often spent his summer holidays in Durness with family

For more information

For a timetable of guided walks around Sutherland:

On Sutherland in general:

Also of interest:

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