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An Account of Club Outings - 1996
Sunday 4 February - Yarrows
Thirty people came on a bright frosty day; we started from Raggra.
First, we saw stone rows. A dozen examples have been recorded in Caithness and Sutherland and their function is still unclear. We were shown two chambered cairns, Cairn Righ which was very ruinous, excavated by Anderson l865 and Cairn Brounaran which had been greatly robbed and disturbed. Artefacts lost include three urns, thick pottery, skulls and teeth.
Then to McCole's Castle - a round cairn with stalls on a ridge above the loch. Until l900 it was fairly well preserved - excavated Rhind l853 and Anderson l865. Many artefacts were lost including the remains of two articulated crouched skeletons.
Our walk ended with a visit to Yarrows Broch. This is Iron Age with many outer buildings added later - an aisled dwelling known locally as a Wag. We arrived at the farm about 2.30pm after a good day in the fresh air.
Sunday 28 April - Strath Halladale to the Helmsdale River.
Right at Kinbrace and a short distance along the road we saw stone rows, the remains of a kiln and three shepherds graves, apparently in the ruins of an old church. Both this church and the one seen earlier were measured and their dimensions were found to be very similar.
Next to Upper Suisgill where there was a broch, a dunn and 2 souterains. One small girl in the party allowed herself to be lowered into one of them wearing a head torch! Then to Kildonan and off to Caen - a long cairn with horns extending to form an enclosure.
Back home at about 4.30pm through Helmsdale looking at the remains of Latheron Castle and the faces in the wall at the end of the Causewaymire4122
Friday 17 May - Club Weekend
On Saturday, armed with a packed lunch we set out for Lairg, spent time at the Ferry Croft Centre before walking the trail over Ord Hill rich in antiquities of a bygone age. There was a burnt mound, many burial cairns and hut circles and most impressive of all - Ord North - a magnificent stone cairn excavated l967 and dating back almost 5000 years. Then on to Sallachy House along a picturesque road on the south-west side of Loch Shin. The road stops at the house and we walked on to the nearby broch which is in a remarkable state of preservation. After lunch we motored along the A839 then south to the Raven's Rock forestry walk, an enchanting track along the Alt Mor burn where it cuts through a deep ravine. From there to Shin Falls where we paused for refreshment and walked around the woodland trails, then we dispersed to meet again at the hotel for dinner.
We had been fortunate enough to find a speaker for the evening. Mr Robbins is a qualified archaeologist who was commissioned to hold a watching brief when work was started on the re-alignment of the A836 near Lairg. He gave us a most interesting talk with slides showing us the artefacts recovered.
On Sunday we visited Croik Church where the windows have names of clearance victims scratched on the glass. There was also a ruinous Broch some yards away. As the morning was very wet, a decision was made to cut the programme short and to drive back to Bonar Bridge and on to the Mound by the high road via Strath Carnaig. A last stop was made to see the waterfall and Victorian fish ladder just above Loch Fleet before a very wet party made its way back to Caithness.
As usual, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Geoff Leet proposed a vote of thanks to Allan Abernethy who always organises this event and we look forward to an interesting summer programme."
Sunday 9 June - North Calder Farm.
We travelled in convoy to North Calder's main quarry where there was ample space for all the cars. The quarry was explored with Myra identifying the wild flowers for us. We then headed back up the road to the steading where there is an early mill with byre attached at a later date; we were shown the inside decorative stone work and it was pointed out that the sluice handle was still in its original position above the mill race.
Leaving the lower dam, we followed the underground sluice to an early quarry and then to the larger upper dam. In the next field, we walked along a boundary wall with an unusual subsidence in parts creating a roller coaster effect, also running south is the remains of another early boundary wall.
Then to the gull colony passing more quarries and a spring well on the way. The black headed gulls were the first to arrive in this area and the smallest of the common gulls settled three years ago.
A big thank you is due to Mr and Mrs Bremner for allowing us to visit. Gates were lifted off hinges, a bull was gently moved out of our way and we were invited into the house for a "comfort stop"! What more could they have done.
Wednesday 19 June - The Old Bridge at ForssAn evening walk led by Gordon Wilson to see the old bridge at Forss. Twenty three people came on a cool blustery evening. This is a delightful short walk and, surprisingly some of our members had not been before. Unfortunately, the weather was too cold to linger for long and our mission having been accomplished we returned to our cars and headed for home."
Sunday 23 June - The Lime Kiln at Reay led by Jack Barnaby
The kiln which is the largest in the area is of square construction with hearths on three sides and a ramp leading to the top of the kiln on the fourth side to permit charging of the limestone. It is thought to have been built towards the end of the last century and operated until about the first world war. The limestone and peat fuel were available locally and we visited a limestone quarry adjacent to the kiln.
On the return journey, the route deviated from the normal track and cut through the unplanted areas between the trees. After crossing a burn and an internal deer fence, we reached the track leading to Achvarasdale. A short detour was made at this point to inspect a fank and associated buildings, the size of which suggested that in earlier times this had been an important animal handling area.
It only remained to cross the external deer fence with its rather rudimentary ladder and follow the path to Achvarasdale.
We were back in Thurso by 5.00pm.
Sunday 14 July -Boat Trip to Hoy
Wednesday 17 July - Staxigoe Walk
Sunday 4 August - Dunnet Head to Ham Harbour
Following the new coastal trail on a beautiful sunny day, we left the Head and walked down past the lighthouse to the old walled area below; then to the track leading south passing cliffs, seascapes and inland geos. We lingered over lunch at an old mill site, then a visit to Brough Harbour noting the old lighthouse. We climbed up the new stairway towards Kerry Geo where we saw the old ramp road still intact from the herring fishing days. On approaching Ham, we came to what was originally thought to be a souterain but is now regarded as a chambered cairn.
Jack had organised a guided tour for us around the conservation area at Dunnet Mill ,we were shown the bird hide and Club members were given permission to use it at any time. A visit to Ham harbour ended a very delightful day. Thirty four people had attended including two guests from the Dingwall Field Club.
Sunday 25 August - Outing to Dornoch led by Allan Abernethy
In a garden near the lower links of the town, we saw a stone marking the spot of the last judicious execution of a witch in Scotland in l722. This unfortunate lady was Janet Horn who was tarred and feathered and roasted after being accused of having turned her daughter into a pony and having her shod by the Devil.
Then to Dornoch Cathedral where we were met by Mr Ian Ross-Harper who gave us a most informative talk on the Cathedral and its turbulent history.
We had our picnic lunch by the airstrip, then went off to see the jail and that concluded our visit to the town.
We stopped on the way back at the mud flats at Embo. There was an abundance of wild birds and there were seals basking on the rocks. With the ruins of Skibo Castle behind us, it was a most pleasant place to end the day. We were home by 5.30pm.
Sunday 1 September -†Coastal Walk Castlehill to Murkle led by Gordon Wilson
It must be a lovely walk on a good day and we hope to repeat it next summer; meantime, we plodded off passing the battery at Castlehill along the coast. There was a particularly high tide that day and we had to take to the fields on two occasions. The rain eased about l2.30pm for a short time and we ate our lunch(standing!) After about half an hour, it started again and so did we. We passed the wreck of the "Solvan" which came to grief on the rocks off Murkle at the beginning of the year, then to Lady Margaret's Seat . We arrived back in Thurso - very wet - mid afternoon.
Saturday 14 September - A Wick Walkabout
Then to Woolworths (formerly North of Scotland Bank) A classical Aberdeen granite 3 storet, 5 bay front designed by A Marshall MacKenzie in l886 to have 4 giant Ionic pilasters supporting a centre pediment and clock. The modern shop front is flanked by fluted pilasters.
On to Bridge Street and the Clydesdale Bank (formerly Aberdeen Town and County Bank) 1885 designed by J. Russell MacKenzie as a Venetian Renaissance palazzo; 3 storey, 4 bay with round headed openings over polished granite columns to ground floor and stugged ashlar walls. 5 carved heads occupy the spandrels. We picked out Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Victoria and it has been suggested by George Watson that the others might be John Knox, Wallace and Flora MacDonald. In the spandrels to the first floor are carvings of leeks, thistles, roses, shamrock and ears of corn.
The Bank of Scotland (formerly British Linen Bank) John Keppie and Henderson Glasgow, in l935 reconstructed earlier premises. The 3 storey asymmetric 5 bay building has a stone crest carved by Scott Sutherland, (noted for the Commando Monument and son of a former rector of Wick High School).
Bridge Street Church (formerly Free Church) built in l862-64 in the Gothic perpendicular style with 3 stage tower and pronounced spire, designed by William J. Gray of Berwick. The ornate Gothic galleried interior is lit by a large perpendicular window from Bridge Street.
Sheriff Court built in 1862-66, designed by David Rhind as an Italianate 2 storey and attic 3 bay building with pilastered centre gable and tower, crowned with cast iron cresting. The detailed cornice has lion head masks..
The Town Hall built in l828 in the civic classicism and Scottish burgh style is 2 storey with a projecting 3 bay arcade carrying a 3 stage tower, initially square, panelled above, then octagonal with blind and clock faces, capped with an arcaded and domed cupola.
Riverside Nursing Home (formerly Station Hotel) built 1866 with massive triple gabled river frontage, 3 storey on the Bridge Street elevation, the site sloping steeply at the rear.
The Royal Bank of Scotland - circa l830 - This classical finely detailed 3 storey 3 bay free-standing banking house has an additional ground floor bay to the south over the basement facing the river frontage.
The Bridge - Built 1875-77 by Murdoch Paterson, engineer, to replace the l805-07 Telford Bridge. It is a wide 3 arched bridge on triangular cut-waters.
Ebenezer Place - The shortest street in Scotland is reputed to have had the entrance to MacKay's Hotel, now entered from Union Street.
We enjoyed the traffic-free quiet of Union Street and looked at typical l9th century houses and flat Caithness arched pends (one with a fireplace!) Sandy Gunn showed us the site where the world war 2 bombs fell injuring his mother while she was carrying him.
Wick Heritage Centre - Early l9th century house including the last surviving curing yard circa l830. Ian Sutherland joined us at this point and we continued past the Black Steps (painted by Lowery) and the l807 Telford Round House. It has 3 bays, the shallow bowed outer bays joined by a piended slate roof spanning the recess. The long central chimney stack, recently rebuilt, runs the full length of the ridge.
We noted Telford's Breakwater and the Lighthouse which was built on the end of it in l830, also the Pilot House which is perched on the cliff above, on our way to the original Fishmart starting to be restored by the Wick Society. Ian Sutherland showed us the buyer's desks, furniture and the bank screen by torchlight as the windows have had to be boarded up due to vandalism.
This concluded our walk. We will be able to learn much more when, in a few months time, Elizabeth†Beaton's Illustrated Architectural Guide of Caithness is published by the Rutland Press." (Now published.)
Sunday 27 October - Deer at Langwell Water
Sunday 17 November - Dirlot Castle and District led by Gordon Wilson
We then continued over the Royal Engineer's Bridge and walked down to the settlement; one hut circle was found but a further search failed to find any more. A bronze age cairn with a possible cist and a long house with corn kiln intact provided other points of interest.