At the west end of the village of Mey, a minor road heads north towards the coast of the Pentland Firth. At its far end is a junction. One road heads off to the north west towards Scarfskerry, while another heads east towards the Castle of Mey. At this junction, the observant may notice a third road, which heads straight on through a gate and into the end of a narrow valley. This is signposted to Harrow Harbour and is a road well worth following.
The road gently descends along the length of the valley, which has steep grassy sides and for all the world appears to be a miniature version of a river gorge, only without any obvious river. En route to the harbour the road passes some stone buildings. Towards its far end the road curves round to the right, leaving you wondering about the purpose of two rather odd structures precariously located high on the valley side and reached only by ladders from the rim of the valley above. It is difficult to come up with any sensible explanation for their purpose, but considerable effort must have gone into placing them here, so there must be one.
What is referred to as "Harrow Harbour" on the roadsign is called "Phillip's Harbour, Harrow" on a plaque on the harbour wall: so that's the name we've used on this page. The plaque notes that the harbour was rebuilt in 1978/9 and that it was formally reopened on 30 April 1979 by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. It seems that Jimmy Page was a regular visitor to Caithness at the time and at one point it seemed likely that Led Zeppelin would purchase The House of the Northern Gate, the large house which dominates Dunnet, for use as a recording studio. They didn't, but Jimmy Page did reopen Phillip's Harbour.
Today there is still one fishing boat operating from the harbour, the bright yellow creel boat Sealg Brigh, WK197, which fishes for crabs and lobsters. The only other boat on view has seen better days and is laid up beside the access road. It is still just about possible to see that this is Bonny Lad, FW271. It is unclear how a small fishing boat registered in Fowey in Cornwall ended its days on the north coast of Caithness.
It is easy to jump to the conclusion that when Phillip's Harbour was built in the early 1800s it was primarily with fishing in mind, and the presence of a vaulted icehouse confirms that salmon fishing took place here. There are, however, clues that the builders of Phillip's Harbour also had another use in mind. A roofless building with a prominent chimney behind the quay housed a steam engine used to drive saws used to cut up the flagstone from local quarries that were exported from the harbour. This carries a datestone showing it was built in 1871: before steam power was available the flagstone would have been cut by hand. Near the engine house, if you look carefully, it is also possible to see traces of the horse drawn tramway that was used to transport the flagstone to the harbour.
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Grid Ref: ND 281 743