MHG1936 - The Haven - Sarclet Harbour


Early C19 harbour and fishing port. The remains of two stone buildings and a cleared landing place survive.

Type and Period (1)

  • HARBOUR (18th Century to 19th Century - 1800 AD to 1850 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Barely deserves the name; a natural haven with a gently sloping shingle beach between steep cliffs and the ruins of two small storehouses. In the early 19th century an important fishing port. <1>

Attractive harbour set into a sunken inlet known as 'The Haven'. A curved track leads down the steep cliffs to the remains of a roofless stone two-storey storehouse and a sunken stone building (presumably an ice house) at the rear of the inlet. The much reduced remains of several other structures can also be made out within the harbour. The shingle beach has a well cleared landing place. <2>

The harbour and its approach track were Scheduled by Historic Environment Scotland in 2017. <3>

Due to an internal administrative error, the harbour and its approach track were removed from the schedule by Historic Environment Scotland with effect from 22/01/2019. It was intended that a fresh assessment would follow in due course. <4>

The harbour of Sarclet was originally built by David Brodie of Hopeville, tenant and son in law of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster at the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th century. The harbour was regularly damaged by storms and rebuilt. The plan in SCRAN by Joseph Mitchell shows the harbour as it was intended in 1843. The plan shows the track down to the harbour, the Curing House, curing ground and capstan on a platform overlooking the harbour. The plan shows a harbour made up of 2 slips, a jetty and wharf, a short pier on the North side and a longer pier on the S side with a massive breakwater beyond the pier. According to Graham and Gordon Old harbours in northern and western Scotland (Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 117 (1987), 265-352) the breakwater fell in 1880.

Today the remains of the harbour are identifiable on the ground. The track is accessed from the road end on the top of the cliff. It has been cut into the cliff face and has traces of low turf covered walling on the outer edge. The track comes onto a platform c.11m NW-SE by c.7m and c.2.5m above the shore creating the platform for the capstan which is still in place although slightly slumped. Beyond the capstan is a metal bar set into the edge of the platform to prevent the ropes damaging the platform. The whole platform has a substantial wall reveted into the slope with steps down to the curing ground placed centrally. To the N of the steps there is a narrow c.1m wide and c.3m deep compartment set into the wall with a spring fed well. This part of the platform is not shown on the 1843 plan so may be a later improvement to contain the water from the spring. The curing grounds, or stances, beyond the platform are at 2 levels as suggested on the 1843 plan with low, 0.25m high, revetting walls just still visible but grass covered. The Curing house is the only building on the site and as described by J. Hume (Canmore ID 8981) is a two-storey roofless building is c.15m NE-SW by c.7m. There are 3 compartments on the ground floor, each with a doorway on the NW wall. The first floor has a doorway in the SE gable opening onto the curing ground. At the first-floor level on the NW wall there are 3 openings, 2 window spaces and a central doorway. At present there is no access to the building, but it appears to be used for storage.

The remains of the wharf are visible on the S side of the harbour but the slips, jetty, and both piers and the breakwater have been destroyed or possibly in the case of the slips covered by shingle. The lower levels of the shore are covered with large sandstone blocks of masonry, several with drilled holes and the remains of metal fittings indicating they were part of the substantial harbour structures now collapsed. <5>

Sources/Archives (5)



Grid reference Centred ND 3506 4327 (92m by 80m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND34SE
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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