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Smoo Cave (Durness, Scotland)

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Durness, North Scottish Highland Region. 2 km East of Durness on A838 to Lerinmore OS sheet 9 419679;
Geological site of interest, tourist attraction.

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      01.07.2005 00:56
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      Tourist attraction in the North West of Scotland.

      Smoo Cave can be found about a mile away from the village of Durness which is the most North Western village of Britain and is within easy walking distance of the village although you will have to walk up a relatively steep hill when leaving the village in the direction of the cave. There is a car park at the cave, though, if you have your own transport and don't fancy the walk. It is free to visit Smoo Cave, but access is difficult for the disabled. In fact, it is fairly impossible for anyone with mobility problems as you have to walk down a wooden staircase which has at one point got fairly wide gaps between the stairs. At this point you have to cross some water to access the cave. The first time I visited the crossing was a set of stepping stones which I completely misjudged and ended up falling into the sea! Thankfully, the water was only up to my knees and I didn't have to swim to safety! They did provide a rope by the side of the stones, but since this was only supported by some wooden posts (well, thin sticks, actually!) that were moving in the sea, it wasn't particularly useful. The second and third visits I took though provided a more stable solution of a wooden walkway and I can only assume that this is still standing. I'm not sure what time the tide comes in making the cave inaccessible, but I'm sure it must. I visited in the afternoons and in the early evening and was able to access it fine. The cave isn't particularly large and you wont be able to get an extensive walking tour of it like you would be able to get of the caves at Cheddar Gorge or other places. It really is rather tiny, but because of it's rural location it is also extremely quiet and you could pretty much visit at any time of the day and be assured of it being almost or, most probably, completely empty. When you enter you'll hear the sound of rushing water and if you head towards the wooden walkway that's been built you'll be able to see the waterfall for yourself. There is a local man who will sail a boat deeper into the caves. I'm not entirely sure of the price because the man is so nice that he gave me and the large group of students that I was there with a trip for free (in fact, he had to do two runs as there were so many of us!), but I think it is a small fee (only a few pounds at most). If I remember correctly he had a poster pinned to a rock in the cave advertising the boat trips, but it not being a busy place you'll probably have to read this notice and then phone the guy and arrange a time to come back if you want to go on the boat trip. This should only be a small inconvenience, though, as Durness is such a small place and there isn't a huge amount to do there, so you wont mind going back somewhere twice. Be warned, though, that you have to duck to avoid a low wooden beam and then a natural rock formation and even though I'm a little Smurfette of a girl I felt my back touching the beam and rock which was a little bit unnerving! The boat trip probably isn't advisable for those who aren't very secure on their feet, either, as he stops the boat at a point and you have to get out and walk to get further into the caves and, of course, the ground is slippery and uneven. The boat trip is probably around 10-15 minutes in duration including time to board and get off the boat, but is worth it for getting up close to the waterfall if nothing else! Also, the man who runs the boat trip is a mindful of local knowledge and very friendly and would most probably be very pleased to chat away to you about the village and/or the cave if you asked him to. The cave is so small that a look round it including a trip on the boat would probably take you no more than half an hour, but there are some nice views out to sea from outside the cave and if you are up in that part of Britain it is one of fairly few tourist attractions and so is worth a look. However, you probably wouldn't want to go out your way to visit here unless you were up in that area of the world for some other reason as Durness itself is about a 2 and a half hour drive away from Inverness, with a large amount of the journey being on country roads with only room for one lane of traffic and passing places for the rare occurances of two cars actually meeting on the road.

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