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Dovecote At Dale House

Dale House, Westerdale Halkirk Parish

Dale House, Westerdale Halkirk Parish Beehive doocot of four steps - the inward batter is so gentle that it appears externally like four cylinders placed one on top of another. The cote is rubble built with mud mortar and stands in the walled garden of Dale House beside the Thurso river. The garden wall has a gap to accommodate the cote which fills the breach left, and antedates the wall.
The door faces east and there is a step down of about 0.6m to the floor of the cote - an unusual feature which may have helped with the accumulation of dung. Nesting boxes start at 0.6m above the floor level (i.e. at ground level) and are of rubble stone construction, a coarser stone than the visitors to Caithness might expect - but Westerdale is a good way off from Castletown and its flagstone.
Nesting boxes number approximately seven hundred.

Internally, the cote, like that at Freswick, resembles more the straw bee skep than the bottle kiln the, internal form producing a funnel towards the apex favoured in Moray and Banff/Buchan. The apex entrance is large and is the only ingress for the birds. The cote is in reasonable repair.

I am sure that this cote pre-dates Dale House (early eighteenth century) and suggest a seventeenth century date. This cote, with the chapel on the same site, may suggest an earlier house of pretension.


Approximate circumference - 15m.
Wall thickness - 0.86m.
(From Caithness Field Club Bulletin April 1976)


Country Houses In Caithness