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Keiss Harbour

Harbour (19th Century)

Site Name Keiss Harbour

Classification Harbour (19th Century)

Canmore ID 9326

Site Number ND36SE 27

NGR ND 35101 60877

NGR Description Centred ND 35101 60877

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/9326

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

ND36SE 27.00 centred 35101 60877

ND36SE 27.01 3511 6089 bollards

For associated Harbour Cottages (ND 3505 6094), ice house (ND 3518 6098, warehouse, granary or storehouse (ND 3510 6094) and cooperage or bothy (ND 3508 6096), see ND36SE 16, ND36SE 26, ND36SE 28, ND36SE 47 respectively.

(Location cited as ND 351 609). Keiss Harbour, early 19th century. A classic harbour of enclosure with stilling basin, made of local flagstone, partly vertically set. Ancillaries include a vaulted ice-house with a gabled entrance, and a 3-storey, 6-bay storehouse.

J R Hume 1977.

Activities

Field Visit (1968)

Field Visit (15 May 1974)

(Location cited as ND 351 609). Keiss Harbour, early 19th century. A classic harbour of enclosure with stilling basin, made of local flagstone, partly vertically set. Ancillaries include a vaulted ice-house with a gabled entrance, and a 3-storey, 6-bay storehouse.

J R Hume 1977.

Measured Survey (1980)

Field Visit (1980)

Publication Account (1986)

Keiss is one of the more picturesque and better-preserved of the small 19th-century herring-and salmon-fishing stations on the eastern coast of Caithness. Keiss Bay was inspected and given qualified approval as a haven by Thomas Telford in 1790, but the small harbour with pier, slipway and stilling-basin was not built until 1820.

The harbour walls and parapets are constructed of coursed rubble masonry, usually comprising large slabs of local flagstone; the walls have battered sides and incorporate recessed stairways. The breakwater at the end of the stilling-basin is built of vertically set masonry. Behind the breakwater there is a three-storeyed six-bay warehouse which measures 80ft 6in (24.54m) by 22ft 9in (6.93m) overall; it occupies a bank side position with the ground-floor and first-floor loading-doors fronting the Quayside. The ground floor consists entirely of vaulted cellarage, comprising six transverse barrel-vaulted chambers with independent access designed to serve as salt stores in the herring-curing process. The first floor is flagged and the second floor joisted; the plans at each level are roughly mirrored on either side of a central stone partition, each three-bay unit having a fireplace at opposing ends.

A short distance to the NE of the warehouse and harbour there is an ice-house built into the headland. Behind its gabled outer chamber there is a main vaulted chamber measuring 19 ft (5.79m) by 14 ft (4.27m) laterally and served by a high-level hatch beneath the crown of the vault in the landward gable.

Above the harbour, a range of dwellings along the cliff-top terminates at the S end with a yard and an adjoining store and salmon-bothy. The latter is equipped with two pairs of bunk-beds and continued in use until 1940.

Information from ‘Monuments of Industry: An Illustrated Historical Record’, (1986).

Aerial Photography (1991)

Publication Account (1995)

The long village street winds down to the harbour with a terrace of fishermen's cottages (c 1830) following the curve of the road. The harbour, built in 1831, is enclosed with rubble breakwaters made of local flagstone. It has a good example of a stilling basin; the waves run into an outer basin with a shelving slipway on which they break, while water in the main basin is not affected. By the harbour stands a fine warehouse also built in 1831,fronting onto a quay made with the local flags set vertically. The lower floor consists of six stone-vaulted cellars, with two floors above each of two large rooms, and attics. There are small square air vents just below the slate roof. This would have been used for storing salt, barrels, nets and so on, and for storing fish prior to shipping it out. Just north of the warehouse is an icehouse backed into the slope of the cliff, with a stone gabled front. It has an antechamber which acted as a kind of air lock to help keep warm air out of the icehouse proper, which takes the form of a stone-vaulted chamber covered with turf for insulation. In the roof at the back is the door through which ice was tipped in from carts every winter. Ice was packed into the boxes with the fish as soon as they were landed. A few fishing boats still use this harbour. In Keiss village, on the south side of the road to the harbour, there is a parliamentary church (ND 348610) and its two-storey manse (ND 346612), now a private house called Scaraben, both built in 1826.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).

Aerial Photography (14 March 2002)

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