Kyle of Durness

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Kyle of Durness looking north towards Balnakeil Bay

The Kyle of Durness is a coastal inlet on the north coast of Sutherland. It extends 5½ miles inland from Balnakeil and divides the Cape Wrath peninsula from the mainland.[1] The nearest village is Durness.

Physical features

The Kyle is around half a mile wide and tidal with only a narrow channel of water remaining at low tide along most of its length.[1][2] Unlike other coastal inlets along Scotland's north coast it is not straight, having two major bends around Keoldale.[3] It opens into Balnakeil Bay, which is around two miles wide, at its mouth.[1] Faraid Head, on the eastern shore of the bay, provides the range control for the Cape Wrath military training area to the west. The danger area associated with the range includes sea areas to the north of the bay and the range is used for live firing from Royal Navy vessels as well as for bombing practice by the RAF.[4][5]

The River Dionard and Grudie River flow into the Kyle at its southern end with the Daill River and a number of minor streams also flowing into the Kyle along its length. The geology along the eastern side of the Kyle is limestone with rolling grasslands dominating.[6] The Kyle and its surrounding area forms part of the Oldshoremore, Cape Wrath and Durness Special Landscape Area.[7] It contains a number of archaeological remains dating to the prehistoric period.[6][8]

Human features

West Keoldale jetty on the Cape Wrath shore of the Kyle looking across to Keoldale

The A838 road runs along the eastern shore of the kyle in its southern section, with an unclassified road leading to Keoldale, the only remaining settlement on the shore. The Cape Wrath passenger ferry operates from Keoldale between May and September providing the only access to Cape Wrath from the east.[9][10] Land to the north of Keoldale is used by the Keoldale Sheep Stock Club, a joint farm run by crofters in the Durness area.[3] Beaches along the shore of the kyle are backed by narrow machair with few dunes.[3]

The western shore of the Kyle is uninhabited with the former farmsteads at Achimore and Daill the only settlements. The Cape Wrath road runs along the shore from the ferry slipway. This dates from the 1830s having been built to supply the lighthouse at Cape Wrath.[11] A previous landing site towards the mouth of the Kyle was originally used and is the site of a ruined storehouse.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Groome.F.H (1885) 'Parish of Durness', Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, (available online). Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  2. Fifteen pilot whales in trouble in Kyle of Durness, BBC news website, 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Keoldale NC 383662, Beaches of Sutherland, Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  4. Public Information Leaflet, Defence Training Estate Scotland. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  5. Cape Wrath Training Area, Public access to military areas, Ministry of Defence, 2012-12-12. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Loch Borralie, Kyle of Durness, Historic Scotland, 2003. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  7. Assessment of Highland Special Landscape Areas, The Highland Council, June 2011. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  8. Pròiseact Loch Chroispol - Loch Croispol School History Project, Durness Development Group, August 2009. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  9. Cape Wrath Training Area, Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  10. Life on the Edge, Northern Scotland - Cape Wrath to Orkney, Coast, BBC. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  11. Kyle of Durness, Royal Commission on the ancient and historical monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  12. Kyle of Durness storehouse to Cape Wrath lighthouse, Royal Commission on the ancient and historical monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 2013-02-08.

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