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Sarclet Harbour

Harbour (19th Century)

Site Name Sarclet Harbour

Classification Harbour (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) The Haven, Sarclet; Sarclet Haven; North Sea

Canmore ID 8981

Site Number ND34SE 2

NGR ND 35029 43265

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

ND34SE 2 3510 4330

(Location cited as ND 349 435). The Haven, Sarclet. 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.

J R Hume 1977.

Architecture Notes

ND34SE 2 3510 4330

A natural harbour formed by a sloping beach between high cliffs, slightly modified by revetments and rubble slipways. At the head of the beach are the ruins of two storehouses/curing houses and a hand-winch and capstan. Hume records that in the 19th century this was an important fishing port.

J R Hume 1977.

Sarclet Harbour is situated at the foot of a narrow, steep-sided cove immediately SE of Sarclet village (ND34SW 123); it and the village were established as a herring port in the early 19th century by David Brodie of Hopeville (Beaton 1996, 24). The compiler of the Ordnance Survey Name Book (Caithness No. 13, p. 300) notes that the harbour, as it appeared when he was writing (c. 1875), probably dated to 1830, but that it was still 'in excellent repair'.

The harbour is reached from the cliff-top by way of a track cut into the steep slope, which runs in an arc from the top of the NW side of the cove around the SW side to terminate on the shingle beach on the SE. The 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Caithness 1877, sheet XXX) shows that the seaward (NE) side of the harbour was protected by a breakwater that sprang from the foot of the cliff on the SE side of the cove, but nothing is now visible of this. The beach, however, still retains its slipway of large laid boulders, though much of it is now obscured by shingle. A two-storey building stands on the NW side of the harbour and may have been used for curing and packing herring as well as for storage, while two stone-built platforms can be seen to the SW, the larger, on the NW, housing a spring, and the other providing the foundation for the windlass that was used to haul fishing boats up onto the beach.

Rectangular on plan and now reduced to a roofless shell, the building is set into the foot of the slope and measures 15.5m from NE to SW by 6.9m transversely over mortared stone walls 0.7m in thickness. The ground floor contains three compartments, each with an entrance on the SE, and the compartments are linked by doorways at the SE end of the partition walls. The partitions rise only to the level of the ceiling, and the timber floor above has been removed, leaving the sawn off joists in their sockets in both the SE and NW walls. At first floor level an external doorway in the SW gable leads onto the slope at the rear and there is a loading door in the middle of the SE side. There are windows to either side of the loading door, and two more in the NW side (one at each end). At this level each gable has a fireplace.

The larger stone platform stands about 20m S of the building and measures 11.8m from NW to SE across its NE side by 7.4m transversely and about 2.5m in height. It has been set into the foot of the slope on the SW and a set of stone steps runs up its SE side providing access to its grass-grown top. The chamber that houses a spring opens off the wall forming the NE side and measures 3.6m in length by 0.75m in width and 1.1m in height. Excess water is drained NE from the spring through a pipe beneath the level terrace in front of the platform; the terrace is retained on the NE by a low wall. The second platform on this side of the harbour lies slightly further back into the slope than its neighbour. The capstan or windlass is mounted on its flat top.

(YARROWS04 591)

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS, ATW), 30 July 2004

Beaton, E 1996 Caithness: An illustrated architectural guide. (Edinburgh).


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