Smoo Cave, Durness

Smoo Cave has been a popular tourist destination for many years. I remember taking my children to it about 20 years ago! Now, however, it has walkways and boat tours so that you can enter the inner chambers.

It is the largest Sea Cave in the British Isles and has proved a popular Tourist attraction since Sir Walter Scott . The cave has formed along the boundary between the light grey Sangomore Formation and the dark grey, mottled Sailmhor Formation, both of which form part the Durness Group succession. Worm burrow trace fossils of the Sailmhor Formation (also known as Leopard Rock) can be found in the lowermost rocks of the waterfall chamber at around water level.

The rocks are made of soft limestone and the action of the sea and the rain, over many, many year has carved out these magnificent caves. Where rain water has seeped into cracks and washed away the limestone, the cracks have widened to form the sink holes that can be seen today, into underground chambers and finally worked its way out to the sea. Once the first small hole opened it would not be long (relatively speaking) before the cave opened up quite large as we now see it.

It is now one of the largest cave entrances in Britain! The waterfall, the Alt Smoo, falls 21 metres through the sink hole.

The shell midden, the earliest phases of what appeared to be Iron Age, represented the latest phase of Iron activity. The earlier deposits, which are substantially lower than the cave floor, may represent Mesolithic activity within the cave. The investigation also brought to light a further midden deposit located in a former cave some 50 m to the NW of Smoo Cave.

The word “Smoo” comes from the Viking language as do the names of the beaches here. Smoo is derived from “Smuga” for hole or hiding place. Of course there are smugglers legend and stories of the supernatural associated with the cave.

There is a walk way down to the cave with railings, stepping stones help you to cross the water and a covered walkway into the inner chamber. The cave has lights and so now it is much easier to see the whole cave.

The tour, based on the geology and natural history of the cave, enters the second and third chambers by boat. Boat trips into the cave last 20 min and cost £3 per adult and £2 per child. They operate from 11 am to 4 pm in April, May and September, and from 10 am to 5 pm in June, July & August. Boat trips to Faraid Head or Eilean Hoan are provided by Cape Seatours from Geodha Smoo, a long sea inlet at Smoo. Please note that they are weather dependent.

smoo Cave - more than 60 metres long and 40 metres wide

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