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Sandside Harbour

Harbour (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Sandside Harbour

Classification Harbour (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Sand-side Harbour; Fresgoe; Sandside Bay; Reay

Canmore ID 7288

Site Number NC96NE 48

NGR NC 95819 66070

NGR Description Centred on NC 95819 66070

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Reay
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

NC96NE 48.00 95819 66070

Sandside Harbour [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1987.

NC96NE 48.01 NC 9575 6601 Storehouse (S)

NC96NE 48.02 NC 95748 66092 Storehouse (N)

NC96NE 48.03 NC 9577 6601 Winch

NC96NE 48.04 NC 9576 6602 Winch

NC96NE 48.05 NC 95762 65990 1 Sandside

NC96NE 48.06 NC 95757 56996 2 Sandside

(Location cited as NC 958 661). Sandside Harbour, built c. 1830 by Major Innes, for trade and fishing. Two L-plan piers forming a simple basin. Some of the rubble masonry is vertically set. There are 2-storey, 6-bay blocks set into the hillside, with cottages on the upper floor and stores on the ground floor, and a range of single-storey cottages. Other features include two cast-iron framed crab winches.

J R Hume 1977.

(Location cited as NC 958 660). Sandside: this site, though primarily a fishermen's landing used also for local coastal trade, is worth notice for its 'very neat and commodious harbour' referred to in the New Statistical Account. The proprietor who paid for the building of the 'small artificial harbour' was William Innes of Sandside. His letter of 5 December 1835, expressing his satisfaction with the completed work was published by Bremner in 1845. Bremner secured the harbour by the use of boom gates.


The joint mouth of the Sandside and Brackside Burns is backed up by dunes in the head of Sandside Bay sufficiently to have afforded, in early times, a pool or pools to shelter small craft, between the village of Reay (NC96SE 64) and the sea. About half way along the W side of the bay, rock shelves lying at right-angles to the shoreline have been flattened, and the inner end of one shelf cut back to form a primitive quay. A short distance to the N, the two piers of Bremner's harbour have improved a pocket in the rocks, making a small harbour with a very narrow entrance to the NE. Both piers are backed with vertically-set kerb stones. It extends out to sea beyond the narrow entrance, the head returning southwards at an oblique angle. The outer tip is stepped. Near the end of its parapet, there is a shelter recess. Eight cylindrical stone pawls are set in the surfaces of the pier and shore quay. Unlike Castlehill (ND16NE 41.00), where the boom closure required two slots on each side of the harbour mouth, Sandside has only a single pair. There are remains of the machinery for working the gates on both sides.

A Graham and J Gordon 1988.

Sandside Harbour, c. 1830. James Bremner. An attractive harbour built by Major William Innes of Sandside for both trade and fishing. It is sheltered at the W by high ground, and looks E over the Pentland Firth and Dounreay. The stonework is varied and excellent, the seaward faces of the harbour walls of vertically laid masonry. Some c. 1830 cottages and a fine three-storey fishing store line the quayside.

E Beaton 1996.


Build (1835)

Two piers built at a cost of £3000, utilising vertically placed flagstones.

R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Publication Account (2007)

Sandside or Reay Harbour

(Institute Civil Engineers Historic Engineering Works no. HEW 1672)

This ‘very neat and commodious’ fishing and local coastal trade harbour was completed in ca.1835 for about £3000. In the planning and construction of this harbour considerable ingenuity was exercised by its engineer James Bremner. He built two piers to improve a pocket in the rocks forming a harbour with a very narrow entrance to the north east. Both piers are backed with near vertically set flagstones to mitigate the effects of wave force, a feature of Bremner’s work at various harbours.

The north pier is constructed almost entirely of these near vertical stones, with a surface of massive lateral stones, and extends out to sea beyond the entrance. The harbour was secured by boom gates, the remains of the machinery for working which, and slot on each side of the entrance, still exist.

Flagstone construction, as here, is a feature of civil engineering work in Caithness.

R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.


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