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Latheronwheel Heading North
The second element of the place name Latheronwheel is probably from the Gaelic Faedhail (pronounced ‘fuil’) meaning a ford, this Gaelic word is borrowed from the Norse vathill a wading place. A folk tale explanation of the name is that when a coach came to the ford the driver was told to ‘put some leather on the wheel’ in order that the coach was pulled through the ford. The only other recorded version of this place name is in 1452 Lathryful.
Latheronwheel was built on land owned by Captain Dunbar, it was his wish that the new village be named Janetstown after his wife, but the village today remains Latheronwheel. The first building in the planned settlement was the Latheronwheel Hotel on 1835, it was known as Dunbar’s Hotel. Today the hotel is still known as ‘The Blends’ due to the proprietor in the 1890s, Donald Sutherland, who blended his own whisky, some of which possibly came from illegal stills in the area. Each incoming tenant to the new village was allocated 0.8 ha (2 acres) feu with the right to fish from the harbour, which at this time had a fleet of over 50 vessels. Salmon was the catch prior to the herring industry boom. There were so many herring that men came from the Isle of Lewis in the herring season and lived with the owner of the boat, one such house where they would have stayed is Coopers Building. The herring were taken by cart to Helmsdale station. Very few boats use the harbour now.
The harbour was built in ca.1840 and a simple lighthouse was constructed on the southern headland. This building was hexagonal, although according to a photograph taken in ca. 1925 it became a rectangular 2 storey building - also known as Latheronwheel Castle, where a lantern was placed in the upper floor as a simple guiding light. The OS map of 1871 shows the lighthouse was already disused then; perhaps these were 2 separate buildings on the same site?
The houses of the feuars were built to the North side of the Latheronwheel burn extending down towards the old coast road, which crossed the burn, by an old bridge. Notes made by Andrew Sutherland who was ordained minister of the parish of Latheron in August 1717 state: ‘At Lathronwheel stood the house of Patrick Dunbar of Bowermaden. This was situated a hundred yards or so from the Burn of Lethronwheel, over which Mr Dunbar had just built a single-arched stone bridge, which the minister considered, would be of great benefit to all travellers through the parish.’ This bridge was used as part of the Post Pony route, showing evidence of an 18th Century communication route with the Far North.
The trees at Latheronwheel to the south of the strath and east of the Parliamentary Road were planted by a Major Stocks and still had a winding path and bridges over the burn in 1936, when they were then washed away in a storm.
The Ice House in Latheronwheel Harbour