We picked up two interesting leaflets in the excellent tourist information centre in Durness, and used them as guides to visit some archaeological sites on the nearby Borralie Headland. The first leaflet was about the Loch Croispol Schoolhouse ruin, shown above and below, which was excavated a few years ago as part of a local school history project. The school was built in the mid 1760s as a parish school for Durness.
From the leaflet, I read that William Ross was appointed schoolmaster in 1811 when aged only 16, but ended up in conflict with the local minister. The case eventually reached the House of Lords. By 1850 Ross was still at the school, but there were no pupils! This is the sort of job, a schoolmaster with no pupils, that would have well-suited Fat Mac, but even then he’d probably complain about being overworked. Ross was eventually removed from his post in 1861, but stayed in the schoolhouse for a further ten years, spending his time fishing in the nearby loch.
We referred to the second leaflet, entitled Borralie Headland, when walking around the nearby hills. There is also a very detailed “Archaeological survey
carried out on behalf of Historic Scotland”, Glasgow University 2003, which I found since our walk, and another document, Excavation of an Iron Age burial mound, Loch Borralie, Durness, Sutherland, by Gavin MacGregor.
Above is a sheepfold that was built in the 19th century when people living nearby were moved out to make way for sheep farming.
Ruined farmstead, probably from the 18th century.
Above is a natural amphitheatre called Hakon’s Bowl. Hakon was a Norwegian king. There is other evidence of viking presence in the area.
The leaflet calls this ‘Hakon’s Bowl mystery building’ and says that it could be a prehistoric house.
This is the site of Loch Borralie dun and township. The leaflet says the defended homestead was probably occupied during the mid first millenium AD when Norse speakers arrived in the area, and that the buildings (remains of shown above) around the circular mound (the dun) were built later, probably using stones from the dun.
The leaflet says that the ruin above is a settlement dating from the 1400s.
Above is, I think, one of the Iron Age burial mounds described in the MacGregor paper. This is situated in a very exposed position.
I found the leaflets shown above very useful. Well done to the people who produced them. Using them, Lindsey and I enjoyed a day walking on the moor, looking at the settlements and ruins of past and ancient lives, and our day’s entertainment was entirely free and also good for keeping fit.
After the walk, we enjoyed a hot chocolate in the Cocoa Mountain cafe, Balnakeil. Lindsey reckoned it was the best hot chocolate she’s ever tasted.