"Helmsdale" Helmsdale by uglyscot

Helmsdale Travel Guide: 20 reviews and 64 photos

A potted history

Helmsdale lies on the coastal road from Inverness to Wick. It is beyond Golspie where the Dukes of Sutherland who owned most of the land in the area have their castle, which is well worth a visit. Helmsdale has been in existence since the 1st C AD, and the visit of St Ninian. Nearby Navidale is supposedly named after him.
A fierce battle with the Vikings took place nearby..
The [now ruined] castle once stood above the harbour and was built in the 1460s.
A tragedy that occurred there is thought to be the origin of :"Hamlet".
In the 17th and 18th centuries the houses were built of stone to a height of 2 feet, then up to 10 feet with turf. The roofs were of heather thatch, or of branches covered with turf. Nowadays the houses are like those in most Highland towns, built of the local stone.
After the Clearances, particularly 1810-1825 the village expanded to serve the cleared tenants who remained. Most of the younger people emigrated to Canada or New Zealand.
Helmsdale became important as a resting place. There was at one time only one bridge to the north, so horses would be allowed to regain their strength before tackling the Ord of Caithness.
Nowadays the town is built of stone, and lies on the main road to the north. .
The Helmsdale River has some of the best salmon fishing. It flows from Glen Loth and the Strath of Kildonan, where the Gold Rush occurred for a short time.

There is Timespan which is a great introduction to the history of the region.
And nearby is La Mirage, a great place to eat, especially fish and chips; though now under new ownership since I last went there.

I have always been keen to go to Helmsdale as members of the family originated in the Strath of Kildonan and were resettled in Helmsdale, Navidale and Badbae when evicted by the Duchess of Sutherland to make way for sheep. The road is much easier to travel now than it was in the 1950s, but the scenery in the area is still wild and beautiful; no wonder the evictees hated being on the coast and preferred to emigrate to Canada or New Zealand.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:a nice little town, and Timespan museum
  • Last visit to Helmsdale: Apr 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (5)

Comments (3)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2008 at 12:50 PM

    Lovely little page about this Scottish gem. I once spent about 3 hourse here on my way from Inverness to Thurso.

  • nickandchris's Profile Photo
    Feb 27, 2007 at 1:58 AM

    I much prefer these pages on little known places. Again, I have no idea exactly where this is!!

  • evaanna's Profile Photo
    Dec 27, 2005 at 8:29 AM

    Very picturesque, love the peace of small country graveyards. Have only just learnt from you about brochs too.


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