Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
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Durness, Scotland, IV27 4PN
  • I have visited Smoo Cave many times and usually stop off here when I am in the area as I think it is a truly magical place
  • Smoo Cave is sign posted from the A838 coast road so it is easy to find and there is a small car parking area with public toilets
  • There are many rocks around the cave and visitors use these to spell out their names or leave messages
  • Standing on the wooden bridge is however only for the brave and certainly not for vertigo sufferers

by Mick Spicer
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    Smoo Cave is located on the outskirts of Durness, which is the most northern village on the western coast of mainland Scotland. It boasts one of the the largest entrances of any British cave with a diameter of over 15 metres (50 metres) and it is free to visit.

    I have visited Smoo Cave many times and usually stop off here when I am in the area as I think it is a truly magical place. My most recent visit here was in May 2018 and I still recall my very first visit in 1976 when I was just 6 years old.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • Smoo Cave is sign posted from the A838 coast road so it is easy to find and there is a small car parking area with public toilets. Surrounding the car park are several information boards providing information on the attraction.

    The entrance to the cave is from the cove below which is accessed by very steep steps that lead down to the bottom. This descent can be tricky underfoot following rain and it isn’t for the infirm or feint hearted but during my recent visit the weather was fine so there were no issues with access.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • Looking down from the top of the steps you can see a wooden bridge that crosses the stream which runs into the cave. The entrance to the cave is lit up even during the daytime, which creates a nice ambience.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • You will also notice the ruins of a house at the bottom of the steps, which was abandoned several decades ago. This house would have been well sheltered in the cove, but people have probably lived in the actual cave thousands of years ago and it was certainly used by the Vikings.

    As you stand at the bottom gazing at the cave it is easy to imagine them building their boats here and hiding out of view from their enemies that passed by on the open sea. Excavations carried out in 1992 found evidence of occupation dating back to the Iron Age, meaning it was inhabited by some of the earliest people to ever reach mainland Scotland around 5,000 years ago. It probably derives its name from the Norse word Smuga, which means a hole or hiding place.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • It is only when you have descended all of the steps and crossed the small wooden bridge in the bottom that you see the enormous entrance of the cave and realise just how huge it is. In fact it is the largest sea cave in Britain.

    The ledges of the steep limestone cliffs that surround it provide a nesting place for many birds including Fulmar and some of the only true Rock Doves in Europe (the wild ancestors of the domestic pigeon we find all in cities all around the world) and their cries and squawks have often been the only sound around but on my recent visit there were around a dozen other people visiting.

    There are many rocks around the cave and visitors use these to spell out their names or leave messages.

    Once inside the entrance you will find another wooden bridge which leads to an internal chamber that is filled with a deep freshwater pool. Weather permitting it is possible to take a tour by boat through this chamber into a third chamber beyond but I have yet to do this tour. This tour takes about 20 minutes and costs £6 per adult and £3 per child. The fee is payable to the guy who takes you in the boat.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • Inside the first chamber you will see a 25 metre waterfall (80 feet) directly in front of you, that plunges from a hole in the roof and this is particularly dramatic after a period of heavy rain. Standing on the wooden platform opposite the waterfall you can feel the spray from it and all that separates you from it is a deep pool of water.

    It is when you are stood here looking at the waterfall that you realise that this is what makes Smoo Cave unique. The huge entrance at the front of the cave has been formed by the sea and the stream that flows through the inlet known as Geodha Smoo whilst the internal caverns have been created by a completely different stream known as the Allt Smoo, which has its source far away in the mountains and disappears here through a huge hole in the ground. This has been made possible by thousands of years of erosion of the limestone rocks.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • If you stand inside the main chamber and look upwards you will see another large hole in the roof which allows daylight to flood into the cave. Looking at the walls and floor of the cave you will see various plants and mosses which you realise can survive here due to this daylight.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • The walk back up to the car park is a steep one but once you have made it to the top before you leave you should cross over the road and walk towards another wooden bridge because this is the point where the water from the Allt Smoo plunges into the cave and it is possible to stand above this and look down.

  • Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
  • Standing on the wooden bridge is however only for the brave and certainly not for vertigo sufferers. It is a very strange sensation standing directly above a huge waterfall.

    I think that Smoo Cave is a very dramatic place and well worthy of a visit if you are in the area. For me its remote location adds to its appeal. Whilst it is one of the most popular attractions in north west Scotland I have never known there to be more than 30 people on any of my visits and often there has been no one else at all, but to be honest 30 people is probably its capacity as the car parking area only holds around 15 cars.

    Smoo Cave is located about a mile to the east of Durness village, which is a small settlement of only around 400 people but it has a shop, petrol station, camp site, guest houses and cafes. Close to Smoo Cave, just 100 metres further east is the Smoo Cave Hotel which provides food and accommodation.



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The review was published as it's written by reviewer in May, 2018. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 3818051663640331/k2311a0518/5.18.18
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