" Scotland 2015 ~ 5. Hood Stones and Smoo Cave "


Date & Time: Thursday 14th / Friday 15th May 2015.

Locations :  The North coast of Scotland.

Places visited : The Hood Stones (above the croft) and Smoo Cave near Durness.

Accommodation : Croft 103 Portnacon, Durness.

Distance : Hood Stones, 2.6 mls, 850 ft of ascent, plus a local walk at Smoo Cave.

With : Ann and myself and our dogs, Harry and Dylan.

Weather : Wall to wall sunshine, followed by a return to more changeable weather.


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The forecast of a fine mid-week has come true and there's wall-to-wall sunshine today.

Still there's no need to go berserk . . . you could damage yourself in all that sun

so after a leisurely start I take a stroll up  the hill,

a stroll that turned out to be more of a hike due to the underfoot conditions.

What shall we do today . . . Dylan returns from his breakfast-al-fresco in expectant mood.

I had been checking out the local Durness website

and found the whereabouts and background story

of the 'Hood Stones'

These painted stones were placed on the hillside by visiting ship's crews

and have been re-painted several times by the local school children.

They are a poignant reminder of the navy ships that used Loch Eriboll

in the period from the 1920's to 1960's.

Dylan and I set off for the hill . . . he still can't understand how the gates work without being touched !

High on the hillside above Portnacon you can still just see the names of the ships outlined in stone.

Hold your cursor over the picture to check where they are.

Across the road . . . looks like rush hour today !

Taking a break after climbing a little higher.

The soft peat hags are hard going and the ground is full of hidden pockets of water.

The ridges of Ben Loyal can be seen mid-photo, Ben Hope to the right.

The first of the stones reads (in two lines) HMS BLAKE.

The top name is (HMS) SUTHERLAND . . . the larger name below is unknown.

Hi Roger & Ann
Having been an avid Loweswater cam viewer since your move to Loweswater
I think that I can help you out with your painted stones photo on your recent
visit to Scotland. Could the unknown name below Southerland be
BULWARK. Not sure if this is right.
Will be up in the Lakes again in late June
Keep up your excellent reports & photos.

Regards Tony from Honiton, Devon.

One of two versions of (HMS) HOOD . . . Dylan adding perspective.


In 1937, HMS Hood, the world's biggest battleship anchored in Loch Eriboll It is the Hood’s tragic history that makes the hillside such a poignant spot.

During its nine day stay sailors wrote the name “Hood” in stones on the hillside to the west of the Loch.  The Hood was sunk by the German warship Bismarck off Greenland in 1941 with the loss of 1400 lives, all the crew except for three.

The two meter high stones bare mute testimony to the tragic event.

 Many thanks for the information to:  Durness.org


Dylan reaches the summit of this part of the hillside.

Looking North from this elevated position.

If you want to appreciate the view in full . . . .

Click here or on the photo above for a Loweswatercam 360 degree annotated panorama.

On the way back down, on occasions we  were slipping and sliding on the loose peaty turf.

We're nearly at the road and back at the croft.

- - - o o o - - -

Time for an afternoon walk in this beautiful weather

and so the four of us (Ann, myself and the dogs) jump in the car and drive the six miles up towards Durness.

Sangobeg Bay . . .
. . . . looking stunning in the sunshine.

The Sutherland Council are so proud of the beach

that they've erected a great big sign to say so.


Just in case you didn't know !

The purpose of this afternoon was to re-visit Smoo Cave, again somewhere we haven't been for 26 years.

Ann walking down the steps into the deep limestone gorge.
An old building and the bridge over to the cave entrance.

This is apparently the largest sea cave in Britain.

Over the millennia the river has dissolved the limestone to create the cave but the sea has attacked it and make the roof collapse

hence the long, open inlet that leads out to the sea.

Inside the cave the authorities (or whoever) have built a bridge, to take you further into the cave.

This was the cave in 1989 . . . that's Ann and the children heading over to the inner cave.

In 2015 the cave is the same but that bridge is longer and has a health-and-safety roof to protect people from falling stones.

Also there have been electric lamps installed in some of the alcoves, highlighting some of the higher recesses.

A white light highlights a ribbon stalactite.
A small stream issues from under this calcite flow.

The ferns have responded to the lights by growing a lot more strongly in this part of the cave.

Ann stands by the table to read the notices.

We can walk into the waterfall chamber at any time

but there are short boat trips on offer to reach the inner part of the cave.

The waterfall is looking fine today.
A few days ago it was a lot fuller.

The low arch leads to the inner chamber.

The view as we head back out of the waterfall cave . . .



. . . and the view out to the beach and the open air.

Rather than climb back to the car park we head up the other side of the ravine.

Hold your cursor over the picture to see how things have changed over the intervening years.

The inlet that leads out to the open sea . . . at one time this would have been an enclosed cave too.

On the hillside to the left are the remains of a wartime service camp.

A small footpath provided access to the water if needed.

Out on the headland, looking east to Loch Eriboll and Whiten Head.

Looking west to Faraid Head with a fine rock stack just off to the north.

Zooming in on that rock stack . . . Clach Bheag na Faraid.

Upstream from the cave entrance and the sink hole, the river Allt Smoo flows down from Loch Meadiadh.

The river dives underground . . . with the visitor's bridge over the actual sink hole.

The water cascades down into the Waterfall Cave we visited earlier.

A link to further Smoo Cave information can be found here.

- - - o o o - - -

Back at the croft  . . .as you can see from the view.

- - - o o o - - -

It has been a beautiful day . . . perhaps a good day to try out the bath ?

Ahh . . . but there's something missing !

That's better . . . the 'Croft103' brochure recommended you take a bath under the stars.

Yes . . . you can even see the steam from the wonderfully hot solar-heated water . . . your dream complete.

- - - o o o - - -

The fine weather lasted overnight and gave us a fine dawn at 4.45 am.

Time for a photo and then back to that nice warm bed for a few more hours sleep.

Friday morning and the nice weather hasn't lasted but it is still fine and dry enough for a local walk.

Ann and I walk the beach alongside the loch.

A Greylag goose flies in.

Ahead is an old boat high above the tide and a strange line of stones set out in the water.

They are a protective barrier for an old oyster farm.

This old mesh bag must have held these oyster shells.

Appropriately our next bird sighting is of this lovely oyster catcher.

On the  beach head is an old anchor . . .



. . . and the dogs find an old mooring rope

that is being steadily overtaken by the grass.

It has been many days since this old boat had been to sea.

Firmly grounded it has been more of a workshop and rest room for the old farm, though even that use is long passed.

Perhaps the owner has retired and enjoys a new rest room like the one on the lakeside behind ?

On the freshwater lake alongside the view is certainly more peaceful . . . more Greylags again.

A sudden splash in the water as some birds fly in and land.

Two, possibly three, eider duck just offshore.

An old seat was re-erected and gave pleasant respite for a few minutes.

The view in the opposite direction . . . perhaps I preferred a more substantial footing

Almost back . . . but we extend the walk a short distance with a visit to the jetty.

The short breakwater of Portnacon Harbour.

Being set deep in this sea inlet and not facing the open sea, it didn't need to be much larger.

The breakwater reflects the approximate four metre rise and fall of tide.

It is in pretty good condition despite being unused nowadays.

A strange steel ramp gives seaweed covered access to the water at low tide though it would be much safer to use the beach.

Ann was on top . . . and caught this view of my head as I climbed up from below.

That would explain what the dogs are looking at !

- - - o o o - -

After lunch we drove the mile or so down the loch to investigate where the deep blue pottery tiles

used in the bathroom and toilet of the house had come from.

This was the home and the studio of the ceramic artist Lotte Glob.

In her workshop she produced amazing original pottery

which varied from simple glazed bowls and plates to absolutely amazing original ceramic sculptures.

Her work was often fired in outdoor wood kilns in her "ceramic garden".


In her studio shop there were all types of work on display.

We felt them so unique that one of them has found itself

back in Loweswater and has pride of place on our wall.

The fired stones set in this plate had been collected

from the shores of Loch Shin, the long loch we passed

on our journey to Durness.

If we had a water feature in our garden we would have purchased her trademark "Floating Stones"

which were the subject of a book back in the croft.

- - - o o o - - -

Back at the croft for one last evening . . . the fire is lit and everything is cosy.

There is one thing better than under floor heating . . . that must be under-chin heating.

The black hold-all is out on the floor behind.

That must mean we are starting to pack as tomorrow we must be away south after our delightful stay.


- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon Sureshot SX220 or my Canon 1100D Digital SLR Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . another relaxing week at Croft 103

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