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Hill Of Ulbster, Chain Home Low Radar Station

Radar Station (20th Century)

Site Name Hill Of Ulbster, Chain Home Low Radar Station

Classification Radar Station (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Ulbster

Canmore ID 95153

Site Number ND34SW 290

NGR ND 3323 4232

NGR Description Centred ND 3323 4232

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/95153

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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

ND34SW 290 centred 3323 4232

What may be a radar station (information from vertical air photographs RAF 106G/Scot/UK 162 4001, Flown 1946) is situated on the E side of the Hill of Ulbster. Mercer (1985) notes on a plan that it was an anti-aircraft gun emplacement and that ND34SW 93 may have been the gun emplacements.

R J Mercer 1985; Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 9 February 1996.

This Chain Home Low radar station is situated on the summit of the Hill of Ulbster, some 600m E of the A9 trunk road. Many buildings are extant, including the transmitter/receiver block (Tx/Rx) and power generating house. All surviving buildings are constructed of brick and concrete.

The radar station became operational during May 1942 replacing Tannach (ND34NW 36.00) and it closed down in March 1946.

J Guy 2000; NMRS MS 810/10, Vol.1, 36.

This disused radar station on the summit of the Hill of Ulbster comprises the remains of seventeen buildings of which five are still roofed and twelve have been reduced to little more than their concrete floors. In most cases, particularly where the structures have been sited on uneven or sloping ground, the concrete floor has been laid on a levelled stance made up of loose rock fragments set within low drystone walls. At the SW end of the summit there is a cluster of nine structures (YARROWS04 700-708), all reduced to their floors, which probably served as offices, stores and accommodation. The structures are situated on the W side of a boggy hollow and some are linked by concrete paths. The southernmost of the structures (708), which is situated beside the track, may have been a guard house or sentry post, while the purpose of the smallest structure (706) at the N end of the cluster is not known.

Another cluster of structures (YARROWS04 709-715) includes five buildings and a supporting structure for a raised installation. Of the three southern buildings, two (709 & 710) have been reduced to their concrete floors, while the other (712) is brick-built with a concrete floor and roof. Measuring about 2.2m square overall and 2m in height, most of its NNE side is given over to a pair of doors that are now missing, and set into the floor on the S are two ceramic pipes, each measuring about 150mm in diameter. Between this building and 710 there is a structure (711) comprising a concrete pad on the N and a double row of concrete pillars on the S, each of the latter 0.3m square and up to 0.45m in height. Measuring 5.4m from NNE to SSW by 1.9m transversely overall, these supported a structure that was also secured by ropes or wires to four anchor points on the NE, SE, SW, and NW respectively.

One of the two buildings at the N end of the cluster appears to be a brick-built generator house (YARROWS04 713) with a concrete floor and roof. It measures 8.4m from NNE to SSW by 6.5m transversely overall and 4.8m in height. There is a wide entrance on the WNW and a window on the ESE. The interior contains two concrete plinths that probably carried diesel engines. Channels in the floor leading S from the plinths probably carried cables out of the building, and there are apertures high up on the N wall that were probably vents. The fuel tank stood on a high concrete plinth against the outer face of the N wall and was protected by a high anti-blast wall, which springs from the NE corner of the generator house to cover both the tank and the doorway into the building.

The remaining building of this cluster (714) lies immediately E of the generator house and measures 6.4m from WNW to ENE by 4.9m transversely overall. Now reduced to a concrete floor within a brick dwarf wall 0.55m high, it was probably originally carried up in timber. In the interior there are six narrow concrete plinths arranged in a double row. Each measures 0.75m in height and has a pair of steel bolts set into its upper surface. Set some 6.5m NW of the generator house there is also a concrete pad (YARROWS04 715) with four steel bolts set into its upper surface.

At the N end of the station there are four further structures (YARROWS04 716-719), of which one (716) has been reduced to its concrete floor. The largest building in this group (YARROWS04 717) is the largest in the whole complex, measuring 16.1m from NNE to SSW by 6.3m transversely over brick walls rising to a flat concrete roof. It is a transmitter/receiver block and at each end of the building there is a wide entrance protected by an L-shaped blast-wall. Both sides of the building are pierced by six openings, which appear to have had louvred covers, and the interior is subdivided by brick partition walls into a large room at either end and two smaller rooms at the centre.

Immediately NNE of this building are the concrete foundations of two aerial gantries supported on steel or timber posts, one set measuring about 3.6m by 2.3m, the other 6.5m 4.8m.

One of the other two buildings (YARROWS04 718) at the N end of the complex is a small generator house measuring 6m from NNE to SSW by 5.2m transversely overall. Brick-built with a flat concrete roof and floor, there is a wide entrance and window in the ESE side and the interior contains low plinths for two generators. The final building, which lies a further 35m to the WSW of the generator house, and is linked to it by a concrete path, is a radio house (YARROWS04 719). Again brick-built with a concrete roof and floor, it measures only 2.7m square and its entrance on the SSW is protected by an L-shaped blast-wall. A cross-shaped foundation immediately to the N is the base of some form of aerial or mast.

(YARROWS04 700-719)

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS, IF) 7 September 2004.

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