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Attractions

Birdwatching on the shore and loch area with Pheasant,Sparrow Hawk,Buzzard.

The local tidal harbour where you can see the local fishermen.

The local library and cultural centre.

Fishing on the sea,Loch Brora and the river.

Golfing on the local 18 hole Baird designed golf course.

The Clynelish Malt Distillery.To the north of the town where you can see around the distillery and try a sample.

Deer to shoot if you can afford it, but better shot with your camera.Easily seen up by Loch Brora.

Walks along the beach also locally and out into the surrounding hills.

The local beaches with the better beach to the north of the river over a mile long.

Brora Rangers the local football club usually have a match every Saturday.On the south side of Brora just as you come into the town.

Grass Bowling and Tennis at the local club.Down golf road.

Fossils can be found about a mile up on the river bank.

In the evenings you can go out of the town a very short distance, and you will find very dark skies for stargazing,passing satellites can often be seen.

There are a couple of Pictish towers around at about a couple of miles radius where you can get some idea how the ancient Scots lived.

The Brora Heritage Centre near to where the coalpit was situated.

Phone (01408) 622024
Also Cultural and Leisure Services Golspie (01408) 633033
 
Clynelish Whiskey Distillery

No visit to the area is complete without seeing how the "Local Brew" is made. Using burnwater from 'An Dubh Lochan' all of the processes and machinery involved in the distillation of Scotch Whisky can be observed at first hand and all of your questions answered.

Guided Tours: March to October Monday to Friday 9.30am - last tour 4.00pm Phone for current times.

Early and late season by arrangement Tel: 01408 621444/621033

The Harbour

From the War Memorial turn into Harbour Road.The footbridge on the left is one of the oldest in the Highlands and formed part of the main road until 1929. Continue under the railway bridge, just before reaching the harbour is the old ice house, used to preserve herrings in the 19th century.The harbour itself is little different to when it was built in the 1830's,both for fishing and for shipping coal.Try to imagine the feelings of emigrants as they left from this port in 1839 on their way to New Zealand.

The Lower Brora area past the harbour was once known as Fisher-town.Although the entire area has been recently landscaped, it is possible to imagine life in the low cottages used by fishermen long before the harbour was built.

At the end of Shore Street, continue along the new road to a circular car park.This forms part of a pleasant view point and picnic area at the edge of the beach.From here walk back along the footpath,which will lead you into Market Street,so called because the old market was held in the area on the left.Proceed up the brae past the Mission Hall on your left and Free Church on your right to the village centre.

Back Shore Walk

From Fountain Square walk down Gower Street, across the railway crossing,and down the Brae into Lower Brora.Opposite the junction with Elder Street turn right through the cattle gate onto the links.You are now on Brora's original golf course,which was abandoned when the present one was built around the turn of the century.Recently the original site has been restored by volunteers and it is now in use again for economical pratice.

The area on the left of the track you are now on was the site of the salt pans,where salt was produced by evaporating sea water.On the right at the foot of the embankment is the site of Brora;s original coal shaft.

The low,flat roofed building on your left is the old Radio Station.Until 1986 it operated as a communications/listening station and must have many strange stories to tell.The path ends at another cattle gate;go through this and onto the beach.

At this point there is another gate.You can either go through this and walk through the field by the sea, or remain on the seaward side of the fence.Either way,follow the fence and continue as far as you wish to go; if you are energetic this can be as far as Golspie. After half a mile you will reach an old rifle range,from this point to Sputie Burn about 1.5 miles further on,you may see many seals; sometimes over 100 if the tide is out. Shortly after the burn there is a cliff with several caves.

All along the beach there will be seen many waders and other coastal birds.Please try to disturb the wildlife as little as possible,it is important that they rest and carry on their activities.

River Brora

From the Clock Tower cross the river bridge and turn left along the side of the river. Almost immediately turn left to the river bank and follow the path until it rejoins the road.

North Brora Beach

From the Clock Tower cross the bridge and turn right down Golf Road under the railway bridge. Soon afterwards there is a small gate in the fence on the right.Go through this gate and follow the path along the riverside.

Good views are obtained of the harbour and old ice house.On reaching a stile, cross it and walk up the grassy bank towards a car park.
Here there is a plinth explaining the things to be seen.

From here walk down to the beach and follow it northwards along the side of the Golf Course.

There is now found a long stretch of sandy beach, split into 2 beaches by a reef of rock. You can walk as far as you will along here.

In Spring and early Summer please avoid the dunes behind the beach as they are extensively used by nesting birds.

Note: A booklet of walks and drives around Brora can be obtained from Brora Tourist office or local shops. The booklet details short drives to day drives and easy walks to hill walks.

Touring

Brora is ideally situated as a centre from which the whole of the North can be explored John O'Groats, Caithness and Orkney, the rugged grandeur of the North and West of Sutherland,Inverewe Gardens and Ullapool in Wester Ross and, to the South, Tain and the Black Isle.

All are within easy distance for day trips on quiet roads.

Beaches

Miles of golden sand stretch from Brora to Golspie on the South and Helmsdale to the North.

Bathing is safe from the beach running parallel to the golf course.

Sports & Leisure

The bowling green and tennis courts open from May to September and visitors are very welcome at reasonable terms.There are squash courts at Helmsdale,12 miles North, open all year. The public swimming pool, at Golspie, 6 miles South, is also open throughout the year and a timetable is available locally.

The Dolphin Leisure Club at the Royal Marine Hotel includes a swimming pool.

Golf

Brora Golf Club - 18 hole course, 6095 yards, s.s. 69 Par 69

Golf has been played in Brora since 1892 but the course as it is now was remodelled in 1924,by one of golfs immortals, James Braid. He was fascinated by and revelled in the wonderful natural contours, broken by ready made sand bunkers.There is no starting ballot and the complete lack of congestion makes a refreshing change for golfers from more populous areas.

The modem clubhouse offers licensed and catering facilities and makes visitors very welcome.

Throughout the season there are numerous open competitions both at Brora and nearby Golspie and Royal Dornoch courses.Brora hosts a Golf Week during May, with professional tuition,and holds a four day open competition in August.

For the novice who merely wishes to try his hand or have a bit of fun, there is a small courseon the seafront which is available without charge.The course is maintained by enthusiasts and known unofficially as "Gleneagles".

Angling

Brora can supply, in great variety, all the services the angler requires.Sporting lodges with fishing,five hotels all with a bias towards anglers and three with boats on Loch Brora.There are also other boats available on the loch where dapping is now proving effective in July and August.

The visiting angler can also obtain fly fishing instruction,and ghillies can be hired for loch and river.Brora also has a long established tackle shop.A limited number of rods is permitted on Association waters.

The fishing is all basically by fly with some bait fishing and limited amount of spinning. The best salmon months are March to May and then September.Seatrout begin running about the end of May with July and August best, and the Seatrout and Salmon season extends to October.

Local Fishing

RIVER BRORA

At harbour mouth and up river for half a mile £10 per day, which covers both trout and salmon.

Fly fishing only.

Up river from above point to Loch Brora, arrangements must be made through Sutherland

Estates Office, Duke Street, Golspie.

Tel:01408 633268    

Loch Brora

Boat fishing only - Fly fishing only.£25 per day to non-members.£6 per day to Angling Club Members.Salmon,Sea trout,Brown trout.

Three other local lochs with boats and bank fishing. Loch Horn, Loch Lundie, Loch Buidhe.To use boats membership is required.Fee is £10 can be paid with bookings and keys at Lindsay & Co, Main Street, Golspie. Tel:01408 633212

Bank fishing is free to members but £3 per day to non members.

Fishing is15th March to 10th September.

LOCHBUIDHE NO SUNDAY FISHING
(NH665984)

Bank and boat fishing for Brown Trout.

From Brora take A9 South through Golspie.Just after crossing Loch Fleet turn right, signposted Loch Buidhe.After 6 miles the east end of the loch is reached.The boat is moored on the far side of the east end of the loch..

Loch Horn
(NC795059)

Bank and boat fishing, Brown Trout

From Brora take the A9 south to Golspie.On entering Golspie,turn sharp right at the side of the church, up a steep hill.Follow the road under a railway bridge and continue for 4 miles when a red brick building on the left is reached.Park here and follow the burn up the hill for a half mile to the loch.

Lochlundie
(NC785005)

No boat at present.Bank fishing ONLY.Brown Trout.

From Brora take the A9 South through Golspie.Shortly after passing the hospital a sign will be seen to the technical school.Just afterwards a road forks right by an ivy covered cottage.Drive up this road, which turns sharp right. After passing through a gate a junction is reached.Park here and walk straight ahead up the brae,ignoring the right hand path .On reaching a deer fence in 200 yds, climb the fence and follow the dirt road for a further mile to the loch.

Sea Angling

Brora has a tidal harbour,which conditions the times of angling trips.The fishing grounds stretch for 3 miles offshore,allowing for up to 4 hours angling per trip.Prospects include Cod, Ling, Coalfish, Dogfish and Mackeral. The season being April to September . Local boats can cater for parties of up to 12 anglers.
Not sure if there are any angling trips now due to insurance issues, If anyone know's different can you let me know.

Contact:

Mr T Macrae, 46 Tower Street, Golspie. Tel:01408633413.

The local Sea Angling Club have their own boat and provide their own skipper.They too cater for parties.

Archaeology Around Brora

The first settlers arrived around 3700 BC although little trace has been left.Between Dornoch and Golspie, especially around Little Ferry are a number of mounds 6m (20ft) to 30m (lOOft) in diameter and sited above the high water mark.Pieces of bone and worked flint, chert and quartz have been found in their vicinity together with very large numbers of arrow heads and scrapers.Many of these items are displayed in Dunrobin Castle Museum.

In Sutherland there are some 57 tombs of the passage-grave type dating between 3700 BC and 3000 BC, older than the Egyptian pyramids.These graves are basically mounds of stone covering a passage leading to a central burial chamber and are often quite large. Near Brora is found an example at Embo (NH817926).This has two single compartment chambers in an oval cairn, also a Bronze Age Cist between them.

The many ancient enclosures, hut circles and field systems found on the map of Sutherland denote the farms of 2000-3000 years ago.Comparatively little of the domestic architecture remains ,but in Strath Brora (NC764072) will be found the remains of a well constructed stone walled hut lying within an earlier and larger turf hut.In Glen Loth can be found 4 Caithness Wags, a stone built roughly rectangular building.Another characteristic structure of the district is the souterrain or earth house.These are large thick walled huts with very long entrance passages 10m (33ft) to 20m (66ft) long.The reason for this long passage entry is a mystery, while the purpose of the building is unknown, possibly storage. A good local example is found near The Mound. (NH795987) Cairns are widely distributed, occurring as chambered cairns, round cairns, and clearance heaps, the round cairns being normally single burials.A number of cairns are found around Loch Brora, including chambered cairns at Killin (NC858077) and Balnacoil (NC827115).

Another local chambered cairn is found at the end of Glen Loth (NC947105)

Some of the most dramatic early structures are the standing stones, single, in rows or circles.The purpose of these structures is not known but the arrangement of the stone has astronomical significance.The most famous local example is Learable Hill (NC892235), a half mile north of Kildonan Lodge. This features four stone rows. Hut circles and clearance cairns are also found on the site.

See page 12 of "Walking and Touring Around Brora".

A substantial find of early Bronze Age Metalwork occurred at Loch Migdale during rock blasting early in the century. Beakers excavated at Dunrobin, Dornoch and Cambusmore are all displayed in Dunrobin Castle Museum.

Hill Forts

Stonewalled hill forts dated from around the 8th century BC are believed to have been built by chieftans from outwith Sutherland to keep the local people under their control. There are 3 local examples.

Duchary Rock Fort on a steep walled rooky outcrop above Loch Brora (NC850050). It has two entrances and walls 3.2m (12ft) thick. Directions to this fort and to Carrol Broch and another Broch will be found on Page 9 "Walking and Touring around Brora".

Ben Griam Beg (NC831412) at 580m (1903fy) is the highest hill fort in Scotland.It has a1.8m (6ft) thick wall encircling an area 152m (500ft) by 60m (200ft).Very wild and isolated details of how to reach this site are given in "Walking and Touring around Brora" (page 17).

Dun Creich (NM651882) 5.6km (3.5 miles) southeast of Bonar Bridge is the most northerly vitrified fort in Scotland.(Many forts had a lot of timber in their structure which easily caught fire and heated the stone hot enough to melt minerals contained in them).Dun Creich stands on a peninsular and has both an inner and an outer rampart 79m (260ft) by 67m (220ft).

Brochs

The crowning glory of early military architecture in the north is the broch,found almost exclusively north of the Great Glen.These are massive circular towers built of rough hewn stone.The walls are 3.7m (12ft) to 5.5m (18ft) thick and enclose courtyards 6.4m (21ft )to 12.8m (42 ft) diameter.There is a single narrow entrance about 1m (3ft) wide and 1.5m (5ft) high.It is believed they were defences built by peaceful farmers to take shelter from raiders.

The most impressive broch in Sutherland is undoubtedly Dun Domadilla (NC458450). Part of the outer wall still stands to a height of 6.7m (22ft).Details of the route to this broch are given on page 16 of "Walking and Touring Around Brora".

There are many brochs close to Brora.

Some of the most interesting are:

Carn Liath (NC870013) on the A9 between Brora and Golspie. This has a 5.5m (18ft) long passage with a guard chamber, door checks and bar hole. Remains of a stair can be seen.

Carrol Broch (NC846065) above Loch Brora has 2 sets of door checks, a guard chamber Kintradwell Broch (NC929082) at the north end of Brora beach. (See page 8 of "Walking and Touring Around Brora") has two door checks, a guard chamber and mural staircase. Excavated items are displayed at Dunrobin Castle Museum. Castle Cole Broch (NC795133) near Balnacoil (see page 14 of "Walking and Touring Around Brora") is a superbly sited broch on Black Water.It is guarded by steep slopes and a double row stone fortification.There are 2 door checks in the passage and a guard chamber.The courtyard itself is very small, 6.4m (21 ft) diameter.Further on are a hut circle and settlement.There are other settlements,brochs, cairns, chambered cairns and field systems nearby.

Cam Bran Broch (NC943123) will be found in Glen Loth. Nearby are interesting standing stones and a burial structure.

Tobar Mhemsain, some 3.2km (2 miles) further on is a further standing stone Clach Mhic Mhios. Together with the structures described previously these items make Glen Loth very interesting to the archaeologist.Reference: Sutherland Archaeological Guide by Robert Gourlay.

Wildlife

Introduction

The Northern Highlands have a wealth of wildlife which the visitor staying in Brora is well situated to view.It is hoped this leaflet will assist both the novice naturalist and the more experienced. Please remember it is more important for wildlife to carry on its activities,which may be a matter of life and death, than for you to get a close view. So try not to disturb it. especially nesting birds and resting seals.If you see an adder, do not touch it.It will not harm you and after a few seconds will go away.Admire our abundant wild flowers but do not pick them.Not only does this spoil it for other people,it is also a criminal offence.In the Spring and Summer young birds,deer and other animals are often found. Do not touch them just move away.Usually the mother is nearby and will look after them better than you can.

If you find an injured animal contact the SSPCA for advice or assistance on

01464 231191

The empty moorland is often the nesting ground of birds.So if you have a dog keep it under control and do not let it roam the heather.There are many places it can be safely exercised.

The mention of places in this leaflet does not automatically mean there is right of access. In Sutherland you can generally walk freely providing you do not interfere with other activities such as grazing and stalking.

Marine Mamals

Dolphins

The Moray Firth is home to around 120 bottlenosed dolphins. They have occasionally been seen from Brora beach and harbour. Several other species of Dolphin, the White beaked, the Atlantic White-sided, the Common and Risso's are all sometimes seen offshore but rarely come into shallow waters. All are more likely off the North and West coast of Sutherland. Dolphins are best seen on a rising tide from places where the sea narrows and fish are concentrated.

The nearest reliable places for shore watching are Baltinore (near Fearn) and the mouth of the Cromarty Firth either at Balnapaling (Nigg) or the other side by Cromarty Lighthouse. Further south the best place is Chanonary Point (the mouth of the inner Moray Firth), where they are often seen playing at the surface with salmon. The mouth of the Beauly Firth by North Kessock is also good. This area is an important over wintering spot for sprat and herring and both dolphins and seals concentrate here in a good sprat winter.

The Dolphin Visitor Centre at North Kessock is also an interesting place to visit because it has a sound relay system.Dolphin watching cruises are available. Only companies that have agreed to abide by a Dolphin friendly code of conduct should be used. The nearest such cruises are:

Portmahomack - J Mackenzie 01862871257

Cromarty Dolphin Ecosse    013 81 600323

Seaboard Marine           01861871254

To get to Cromarty, Nigg Ferry operates at half hour intervals 9.15am to 6.15pm (to7.15pm in July/August) Telephone No: 01862871244

Harbour Porpoises

May be seen at any of the above. Baltinore is probably best.

Other Cetaceans

A pod of 8 sperm whales was observed from Brora in October 1994, while a killer whale

(Orca) was seen two miles offshore in 1998. Minke whales arrive in the Moray Firth in late summer, the first arrival in 1998 being on 19th July. They usually remain in the firth until September or October. They are sometimes visible from Brora beach with binoculars.

Grey Seals

Around 500 can be seen in the Moray Firth outside the breeding season when large groups of several hundred congregate at isolated haul out sites. Individual grey seals are often seen mixed in with common seals, which often haul out in more accessible places. Breeding takes place on remote islands and beaches in the Autumn when the single pups are born. The nearest breeding site is north of Helmsdale and is only visible from boat. The pups remain here for about 3 weeks before losing their fur and being abandoned by their mothers.

Common Seals

There are around 1200 in the Moray Firth. They haul out regularly at Loch Fleet and Dornoch Firth, but the best views are on Brora beach between the "targets" and Sputie Burn, where over 100 haul out regularly. They are best seen at low tide, but please do not approach too close and disturb them. The pups are born in the last two weeks of June and swim out with their mothers on the next tide.

Other Mammals

Otters

Resident on River Brora and may be seen anywhere between harbour mouth and loch. Best time is around dawn (2-3 o'clock in June/July) and to a lesser extent at dusk. At other times chances are poor and mainly luck.Sometimes seen Fishing at midday in remote lochans into the hills.

Pine Martin

In woods around Brora but seeing them is a matter of luck. In the summer of 1994 one was seen crossing the A9 near Dunrobin Castle.

Wildcats

In local woods and in the hills, best seen around dawn. Again mainly luck as they are very elusive.

Deer

Roe deer are widespread and may be seen wherever there is vegetation cover, including

gardens around the edge of the village. Red deer can often be seen on the hills around Loch Brora and Glen Loth. During the summer they remain on hilltops to avoid midges. Close views can be gained at Loch Brora around dusk when they come down to drink from the loch.

Miscellaneous Mammals

Hedgehog, moles, common and pigmy shrews, field voles and bank voles, house and wood mice, fox, stoat, weasel, rabbit are all common in suitable locations. Brown hare are found on arable farmland and mountain hare on heather moorland. Water voles are less common than other voles but found on banks of rivers and burns. Badgers are rare. Red squirrels were found in Uppat and Balblair woods but it is uncertain if they are still present. They are to be found in Ledmore Wood, Strath Oykel and Rosehall. Pipistrelle bats are widespread.

Long eared bats are found in sheltered, thinly wooded areas. Daubenton's bat is found near rivers.Wild goats are often to be seen on the Morvich Rock near Rogart.

Reptiles and Amphibians

The common lizard is widespread especially on heather moor. Adders are common around Loch Brora. The smooth newt is common on damp ground. Palmate newts are reported but not common. Frogs and toads are widespread especially on peat bog. Frogs are often found in damp heather at quite high altitudes.

Birds

The coast offers a wide variety of ducks and waders, the species varying with the season.

Brora beach is particularly interesting during the winter. Mallard, Goldeneye, Longtailed

duck and Eider are to be found. (Look carefully at the Eider off the river mouth as sometimes a King Eider may be seen.)

If you are fortunate less common species such as Common andVelvet Scoter may be seen. In the case of waders the autumn migrating begins as early as July.Oystercatcher, Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Golden Plover,Turnstone and Sandpipers are all to be seen.Storms and strong winds may bring unusual species to the beach. With a telescope, sea watching may reveal all three species of Diver,Skuas and Shearwaters. Migrating auks may also be observed. Common and Arctic Tern breed locally and more rarely Sandwich Tern and Little Tern.Also observe the wide variety of Gulls, Fulmar, Cormorants and Shag.

To the north of Brora Lothbeg Point is a good place for watching coastal species.

Loch Brora is always worth a visit with Goldeneye and other ducks, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Lapwing. Ravens are often seen on Carrol Rock. Overhead Buzzard are probable, with good luck Golden Eagle may be seen in winter.Loch Fleet forms part of a well known nature reserve with a wealth ofseaducks and waders.Here one may hope to see Osprey fishing. The local woodland yields Chaffinch, Tits,Treecreeper, Wren, Robin, Redstart and Redpoll. Balblair Wood at Loch Fleet adds Goldcrest and Scottish Crossbil to the keen birdwatchers list. The hills surrounding Brora provide Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Red Grouse, with Redthroated Divers breeding on remote lochans.

Invertabrates

The poor recording of invertebrates in Sutherland makes it an especially exciting place for the specialist since only recently new species have been found. Eleven species of dragonfly are know in Sutherland with the four-spotted chaser and common blue damsel-fly being the most usual.A Sutherland special is Highland Darter recorded locally at Skelbo and Clyiielish Moss.Butterflies include Common Blue, Dark Green Fritillery, Grayling (Littleferry) and Large Heath (Moorland).

Botanical

The coastal strip from Lothbeg to Domoch Firth provides a wealth of plants of the saltmarsh and duneheath, although in exploring it one has to be careful not to disturb nesting birds.Here may be found Fragrant Orchid, Frog Orchid, Twayblade, Baltic Rush, Beaked

Tasselweed, Scurvygrass and Sea Mildwort among others. Woodland is mainly birch although in sheltered places there is some mixed oak and elm. Such woodland bordering Loch Brora near Carrol Rock. Ledmore wood is primarily an oak wood with hazel, holly, hawthorn and birch, while underneath is found heather and blaeberry.

The only genuine Caledonian forest remnants in the area are in the southeast but nearer and more accessible is Balblair wood which is planted Scots pine with woodland plants including the Oneflowered Wintergreen.The Alder Wood at the mound is part of a National Nature Reserve and the largest estuarine Alderwood in Britain. This can be viewed from the carpark on the Mound causeway. From here a variety of wintering waders and wildfowl can be viewed together with breeding woodland birds.Another interesting botanical walk is the Big Burn at Golspie.

Nature Reserves

Loch Fleet is a 2,600 acre National Nature Reserve managed jointly by Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Wildlife Trust. It includes the tidal mudflats of the Loch Fleet basin,the winter home for thousands ofwetland birds, and the botancial gem of Ferry Links and Balblair Wood. The empty cottage at Loch Fleet is to become a visitor centre. In the meantime details of guided walks and other information can be obtained from the.

Scottish Natural Heritage office in Main Street Golspie - Tel: 01408 633602 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            01408 633602      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Forsinard is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Flow Country Reserve. The Flow Country is a large area of blanket bog acknowledged by international experts as "unique and of global importance equal to the African Serengeti or Brazil's tropical rainforest". The reserve features a Flow Country interpretive centre and guided walks.

Tel: 01641 571225

Ledmore Wood is a Woodland Trust reserve. This is a varied Oak and Scots Pine Wood which is excellent for woodland birds.There are no guided walks but there is a signposted track leading to Loch Migdale.

Handa Island

A small island situated near Scourie and reached by a 20 minute boat journey from Tarbet.

The island is a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve and features a spectacular sea bird colony. It is best visited between May and mid July. N.B. The boat does not operate on Sundays.

Sandwood Bay

A John Muir Trust reserve. Wild, beautiful, rich in plant life and birds but be prepared for a long walk. Tel: 01971 521459

The Countryside Ranger Service provides guided walks and other activities. Lairg 01549 402638 and Durness 01971 521259

Details of these activities can be obtained from Visitors Centres or Scottish Natural Heritage.

References

The Birds of Sutherland ...Alan Vittery

Sutherland Birds ........ed. Stewart Angus

Birds of Loch Fleet ...........Jim Vaughan

Scottish Wild Flowers .....J B Scott

The Geologists Brora

Geologically the area is quite interesting and the following is based on an article by the late Professor Judd of the Royal College ofScience:-

"Lying upon the upturned and denuded edges of the Silurian rocks in the neighbourhood is a series of outlying masses, forming a belt about five miles wide and consisting of the lower division of the Old Red Sandstone system, and nothing can be more striking than the proofs of unconformity between the Silurian and these Old Sandstone Rocks.

The relation of the two series may be well seen on both sides of Loch Brora, where the tops of the fantastically shaped mountains which culminate in Beinn Smeorail and Beinn Hourn are formed of the old Red Conglomarats and Sandstone, while their flanks, whenever mountain torrents have cut through the old lateral glacier moraines which cover them, are seen to be formed of the highly contorted Silurian Rocks.

At Gordonbush a great mass of the Old Red Sandstone has tumbled from the mountain above,nearly to the level of the Loch, and nowhere can the geologist find better illustration of glacial phenomena than on the shore of this beautiful loch. Of special interest are the numerous terminal moraines which mark the gradual retrocession of the glacier of Strath Brora, one of which still dams up the loch.

At Clynekirton there is exposed at the waterfall an excellent section of the Silurian rocks which rise to a height of 500 feet, and in which they terminate abruptly. Lying against them,but rising to a much smaller height, on account of their comparative softness, the Jurassic beds appear. The Silurian rocks form the precipice over which the stream falls in a fine cascade.The Jurassic rocks here consist of sandstones, argillaceous sands with much carbonaceous matter, and some thin beds of clay.

Between Clyne Church and Bramberry Hill the secondary strata are concealed; but they proably lie in a series of long curves, in some cases broken across by faults, until in a cliff on the north side of the river the rocks consist of marine sandy clays of the middle Oxfordian age. At Bramberry Hill the sandstone strata which overlie the clays just mentioned form an anticlinal, the rocks of which, owing to their superior hardness, resisted denudation; and thence to Brora, as seen in the gorge of the river, the strata lies with a dip gradually diminishing in amount.

Silurian strata with characters similar to those already described, and containing veins of white quartz, red granite, etc, are found rising to a height of from 500 to 600 feet between the Clyne and Kintradwell Burns, in the latter of which they are again seen travered by veins of quartz and felspar, the latter sometimes decomposed into kaolin. At the openings of the ravines of Achrimsdale and Clynemilton there are exposures of the Jurassic strata, but the contact of these with the Silurian strata is not seen.

The peculiar Silurian rock of Clyne Church is seen again in a ravine between it and Loch

Brora, and at a number of small exposures along the mountain side. They are also seen on the sides of Loch Brora wherever the streams have cut sufficiently deep to pass through the thick masses of moraine matter which mark the flanks on either side of Loch Brora.

The next point at which a section is cut through the great mantle of glacial detritus which covers the country is in the Sputie Burn, Here the Jurassic sandstones, which are tolerably well exposed at several points about Uppat, are seen in the bed of the brook; and at a short distance above the Old Red Sandstone and Conglomerate are found in situ, having been brought to a much lower level than near Loch Brora by the southerly dip of the strata, which seems to be here greatly increased in amount; so that the Old Red nearly, or quite, overlaps the Silurian at this spot.

Among these secondary strata there exists the peculiar pheomana known as "pseudo dykes".These present all the external forms of dykes of igneous rocks running in a more or less vertical direction across the several beds, and sending off various branches and offshoots in their course. When the nature of the rock of which they are composed is examined, however,it is found that instead of being composed of materials of igneous origin, the rock is certainly an aqueous one, and indurated sandstone, or a calcareous grit.

These pseudo dykes occur at Kintradwell and in the Brora coalfield. In the fine example at Kindtradwell fragments of carbonaceous matter occur, and these are arranged not horizontally as in associated beds, but vertically and parallel to the sides of the dykes.

In Sutherland the place of the Lower Oolites is occupied by a thick mass of sandstones,

shales and coals, exhibiting many evidences of deposition under estuarine conditions. These estuarine strata are very inconsistent in character, so that sections at short distances from one another often exhibit surprising differences in the order and thickness of the strata passed through.

The coal bed is seen on the shore at Brora, near the site of the old salt pans; and at this place it has frequently been dug, the overlying roof bed having been often removed by blasting, it now forms a very conspicuous reef on the shore at low water. Along the shore opposite and to the northland of this outcrop a number of shallow pits have been sunk in the Inverbrora Links at various dates sine 1598 for working this bed and those a short distance below.The sites of many of these old pits can still be traced.The Middle Oolite is very completely represented by several series of marine beds alternating with estuarine strata, the whole attaining a great thickness. From the marine beds there have been obtained some very interesting and beautiful series of fossils, which enable one to identify several of those clearly marked zones of life.

In the gorge of the river, at Fascally, the marine strata is seen to be covered by a great thickness of sandstones which dip to the east. The sandstones, the lower beds of which were quarried in order to obtain materials for the constructions about the coal pit, must be estimated at not less than 400 feet thick. They yield no traces of marine shells, except in certain thin bands;but they contain much carbonaceous matter in places, with occasional thin, coaly seams, and are evidently of estiiarine origin.

The lowest marine beds, immediately above the clays, assume at their northern extension a somewhat different character locally, and consist of a hard, brittle, fine grained sandstone, full of casts of fossils. This sandstone has been extensively dug in the Clynelish quarries and has been employed in the construction of London Bridge and in many local erections such as Dunrobin Castle and the statue on the top of Ben Vraggie. It can be obtained in blocks of great size, is easily worked, and is of a beautiful white colour. In places the rock passes into an intensely hard, compact material like quartzite, which was, in the early part of the last century,used by the local militia for making gun flints, and was extensively used in pre-historic times as a substitute for flint in making arrow heads, knives and other weapons and implements.

The hard sandstone rock, where exposed at the surface on Hare Hill, has retained in a remarkably beautiful manner the striation and grooving impressed upon it by the great Strathbrora glacier, of which this hill at one time evidently formed the northern boundary.Wherever the turf and soil are removed from the surface of the hill, these markings, in a beautiful state of preservation, are revealed.

Lying upon the highest beds of the sandstone series, which, as we have seen, contain numerous casts of marine shells, there occurs a bed of bluish-grey sandy limestone. This rock is exposed on the left bank of the Brora, but is now only imperfectly seen; formerly, however, it was dug and burnt into lime; and the rock is said by Farey to be twelve feet thick.This bed, and the other limestones of this series, when exposed at the surface, wither, by the removal of the calcareous matter in solution, into a very soft, yellowish-brown, sandy material, of small specific gravity, formerly used for "rotten-stone".Masses of these rocks, in a decomposed condition, are found near the top of the Hare Hilt Quarries.This bed of limestone is covered with fossils of the very large variety of'Grypaea dilatata" being very numerous; "Ostrea gregaria" also occurs in considerable abundance. At Ardassie Point the sandtone beds are to be seen covered by an interesting series of argillaceous limestones of a light blue colour, which alternate with dark coloured clays and sandy limestones yielding many fossils.

The Upper Oolites are now recognised as existing in the northern part ofthis island, and the only point at which its base is exposed is at Bramberry hill. The normal aspect presented by these rocks is best illustrated by the sections on the shore in the neighbourhood ofKintradwell and Lothbeg. As the geologist proceeds northwards from these places he finds the same strata assuming new and very remarkable characters, which have deservedly attracted much attention and excited great interest among geologists - a phenomeon first described by Sir Roderick Murchison under the name of the "Brecciated beds of the Ord".

From Garty northwards into Caithness the grits and limestones belonging to the Upper Oolites,while in other respects maintaining their normal characteristics, are found in certain of their beds to include numerous masses of foreign rocks of various sizes. The frequency of these included blocks appear to increase as one proceeds northwards, till in the exposures about the Ord the Upper Oolite strata are almost wholly made up of fragments of foreign rocks,some of these being of enormous size, crowded together in the greater confusion, and cemented by a sandy or calcareous matrix.

Text By Alan Davenport.

All information taken from the booklet Spend Some Time Exploring Brora

with thanks to the Brora Community Council for the use of the information.




 
 
 
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