MHG10150 - Helmsdale Harbour


No summary available.

Type and Period (2)

  • HARBOUR (Built, 19th Century - 1818 AD to 1818 AD)
  • HARBOUR (Extended, 19th Century - 1892 AD to 1892 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

See photo - HAW 11/2002

ND01NW 61 0300 1515
For (predecessor) Helmsdale, Old Harbour (ND 0272 1529), see ND01NW 62.
The Industrial Archaeology of Sutherland (A Scottish Highland Economy 1700-1900, pp. 38-39, 92, 93, 96-98, 237) - Sinclair B Calder, 1974

J Aitken : 19/2/2004
ND 030 151). Helmsdale Harbour, built 1818, engineer John Rennie, extended 1839-41 for the Duke of Sutherland, and rebuilt 1890 for the Helmsdale Harbour Trustees. The older part (ND01NW 62) consists of a quay and pier upstream from the [then] new bridge (ND01NW 58), forming a rectangular basin, and the 1890 part consists of two piers enclosing a roughly triangular basin. On W side of Helmsdale River are ruins of an old breakwater. Designed mainly as a fishing port. Round both harbours are fisher cottages and fish-curing houses (mostly ruined).
J R Hume 1977.

The mouth of the Helmsdale River was one of those listed in a Macfarlane document of the early 17th century as good harbours for ships trading in local produce. Further evidence that it possessed a certain importance before improvement became general is given by the fact of its inclusion on Collins's chart (1776) and earlier on Bishop Leslie's map of the 1570's. The earliest harbour works came only in 1818 with a pier and breastwork which were later enlarged and extended. Shipping from all parts of Britain and Ireland was now (1841) making use of the port. An important fishing station was organised with further construction in 1840, and what Groome describes as a new harbour was built in 1892.
A map of 1833 from Dunrobin Castle marks another pier to the north, between East Helmsdale and Navidale, near a distillery.
The present harbour is outside and immediately to E of mouth of Helmsdale River. The outer pier shows no obvious early features, but the sloping inner shore of the harbour is faced for a distance of 200 yds (183m) with rough pieces of red stone. Near the curved W corner, courses of worn grey stone blocks rise from the beach to an overhanging rolled edge kerb, much worn. There is an adjoining section of better grey stone blocks rising to a less worn rolled edge kerb, from end of which the modern pier projects ESE.
From the W side of this pier, the left bank of the river, here flowing from NW to SE, and spanned by a modern road bridge (ND01NW 58), is faced with red stone blocks. Below the bridge there is a section where the blocks are set with their longer sides horizontal. Red stone block construction of a more common kind, the faces of the blocks nearly square and with their shorter sides set horizontally, lines the left bank from the bridge as far as a rough dock about 160 yds (146m) upstream from the harbour. Four red stone pawls are set about 5ft (1.5m) back from the edge of the quay so formed. The head end of the dock for about half its length of approximately 50 yds (45.7m) is lined on each side with rougher masonry, giving way to a narrow beach at the end. The rounded extremity of the outer arm of the dock is, however, of much neater block work. In the centre of the rounded end there is a short flight of steps, leading down to a lower, narrower ridge of stones with a convex surface. This groyne extends downstream nearly as far as the bridge. In it are set large timber posts, while smaller timbers lean towards them from bases in the river bed, close by on the left hand side. The right bank of the river opposite the dock is revetted with masonry. There are two lined recesses in this, but no quay, or even a path at the foot of the very steep bank.
A Graham and J Gordon 1988.

Harbour. Begun in 1818; George Alexander seems to have been the contractor. It then consisted of a quay on the N bank of the River Helmsdale indented with a small rectangular basin. C. 1820 John Rennie proposed the building of breakwaters to shelter the mouth of the river but nothing appears to have been done. The harbour was extended by Alexander in 1823, and in 1841 McDonald and Leslie embanked the river's S shore. Finally, in 1892 James Barron made a roughly triangular basin, enclosed by two piers to the E, and built a breakwater (now in ruins) to the S.
J Gifford 1992.

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred ND 0298 1513 (259m by 135m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND01NW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

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External Links (1)

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