Durness isn't the most north westerly point in mainland Scotland, but it is certainly the most north westerly village. It marks the point at which the main coast road from Thurso via Tongue turns left and heads south towards Scourie and Ullapool.
In this remote and lonely spot you will find all the services you could need, including a petrol station, shops, cash machine, accommodation and a pub. It also has an excellent Tourist Information Centre. And it is home to one of the best located camping and caravanning sites anywhere, on the cliffs overlooking Sango Bay, one of many excellent beaches in the area.
A mile or so to the east is one of Durness's main attractions, the spectacular Smoo Cave, a combined sea and freshwater cave complex which you can explore by boat or by the path from the car park on the cliffs above. Evidence has been found of human occupation here dating back 5,000 years. Elsewhere in the area archaeology suggests pictish farming settlements going back over 2,000 years.
In more recent times, in 1841, Durness was the first area in which residents did not simply accept being cleared off their land to make way for sheep. Military intervention in support of the landowner ensured partial clearance did eventually take place, but it was not as widespread as originally had been intended. And the refusal of crofters in Durness simply to accept their fate showed others elsewhere in the highlands and islands that resistance was possible.
Durness remained very isolated until relatively recently. In 1894 it was noted that anyone covering the 20 miles from Tongue had to use three ferries, across the Kyle of Tongue, the River Hope, and Loch Eriboll. Little wonder that Durness parish, which until 1724 stretched as far as Tongue in the east and Kylesku in the south was split into three. A good road south was completed in 1893, and from the following year there was a daily coach connecting Durness with the railway station at Lairg, some sixty miles to the south east. To the north of Durness is Faraid Head and Balnakeil Bay.
To the west lies Cape Wrath. There is no direct access to it by road, but a passenger ferry does cross the Kyle of Durness from Keodale, two miles south west of Durness. This connects with a minibus that makes the 14 mile trip across the rugged landscape to the lighthouse at Cape Wrath itself. The dangers here are not just the obvious natural ones: this area is also used as a naval gunnery range. Once at Cape Wrath you can either make the minibus trip back to the ferry, or turn south to walk the wild and exceptionally lonely eight miles to Sandwood Bay.
Durness is now one of the few remaining places of any size in mainland Scotland that you can only access by single track road. The white lines cease some fourteen miles south on the A838, and the road east along the north coast of Scotland to Tongue and Thurso has many single track stretches. For more information about Scotland's single track roads and how to drive them, visit our feature page on driving single track roads.
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