Ardgay lies on the south-west side of the Dornoch Firth, close to where it becomes the Kyle of Sutherland. A little to the north-east stands the most recent of three road bridges that have crossed the Kyle to Bonar Bridge.
Ardgay owes its existence, indirectly, to the 3rd Duke of Sutherland. When the railway from Inverness to the far north was being built in the early 1860s the Duke's estates were so extensive he could exercise considerable control over the route followed. He was keen to open up the western parts of his estate, so the main line followed the south side of the Kyle of Sutherland inland to Lairg.
As a result, Bonar Bridge station had to be built on the far side of the Kyle from the village: and the settlement that grew around it became Ardgay. The first developments to follow the railway station were a hotel and a post office. There is no longer a post office in Ardgay, but a range of other services is available. (Continues below image...)
There is also evidence of earlier settlement in the area on view. Sitting in the centre of the village, surrounded by wooden seating, is the Clach Eiteag, a boulder said once to have been moved from parish to parish to mark the current location of a fair, the Feill Eiteachan, at which cattle and farm produce was sold.
Close to the shore of the Dornoch Firth just south of Ardgay is Kincardine, and Old Kincardine Parish Church. The churchyard here is home to the Kincardine Stone, a Pictish grave marker thought to date back to the mid 700s.
Ardgay lies at the entrance to Strathcarron, the valley of the River Carron that extends far into the mountainous area to the south-west. This is the key to efforts to devise a route that allows walkers to cross Scotland in a day, from the Kyle of Sutherland in the east to Loch Broom in the west. Like many inland areas of northern Scotland, Strathcarron was once home to many more people than it is today. But most were cleared from the land to make room for sheep in the late 1700s and early 1800s. A poignant reminder of that era can be found at Croick Church, where the churchyard was used as a shelter by displaced families.
Ardgay itself used to be rather busier than it is today. The main A9 used to pass through the village en route to Bonar Bridge and the far north: but the building of the Dornoch Firth Bridge in the 1980s saved through traffic 20 miles and bypassed both Ardgay and Bonar Bridge. This may be good for through traffic, but it does mean that too many visitors to northern Scotland miss out on what this beautiful and remote area has to offer. A couple of miles south-east of Ardgay is a relic of a bygone age in the form of AA Box 504, standing beside the A836.
Ardgay In Fiction
A Tangled Web by Ken Lussey (15 November 2023).
A fast-paced thriller set in northern Scotland. Callum Anderson returns to Sutherland to help Jenny Mackay investigate the death of her
husband. The authorities say he committed suicide but she’s convinced he was murdered. If she's right then they're both in danger.
Ardgay is visited by the central characters as the story develops.