Helmsdale and the Surrounding area

Lots to see and do around Helmsdale

Helmsdale Hostel is an iconic overnight on the classic Lands End to John O Groats Walk and Cycle routes.  It is also on the new John O'Groats Trail and is ideal as a base for this trail, with transport options available to explore each section in the north area.

Well know as a stop on the  North Coast 500 road route,  which brings together just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery in the deserted far north of Scotland, and  a perfect overnight stop for travelers heading to and from Orkney.

Those moving through Helmsdale are missing out on a world interesting opportunities with Helmsdale Hostel making a great base for a longer stay.

Family's enjoy Helmsdale Beach which is well known for its fossils and rock pools as well Helmsdale Harbour,  home to the Timespan Culture and History Centre where you can as discovering the history of the area and find out about the Highland Clearances.

Well positioned for walkers on the far north Graham and Marilyn Hills,  Helmsdale Hostel is great for walking groups, particularly in the winter when the hostel can be booked at a discount for sole use.  Great for walks along the beach, hill walking and walking the coastal path.  Morven, Scaraben and Beinn Dhorain are all day walks from Helmsdale.

Helmsdale is also an ideal location is ideal for cycling.  There is also a bus service to Orkney offering day trips and tours.

Day trips from the hostel include Dunrobin Castle and Falconry Display, Clynelish Distillery and Baile an Or (Town of Gold) Gold Panning site.  You can hire gold panning equipment or join the historic gold rush tour organised by the local Timespan Museum.  Add to the mix some spectacular sandy beaches in Helmsdale, Brora and Golspie with regular sightings of local marine life including seals and dolphins and it’s a hard proposition to resist!

The Village of Helmsdale

Helmsdale is a small town with many historic building and much to explore.

from it’s industrial past with a Helmsdale Heritage Trail starting at the local Timespan Museum. Helmsdale is also excellently place for exploring the historic sites and monuments of northern Sutherland and into Caithness where the remains of over 600 years of human activity are still scattered around the landscape. 

  • The village includes shops, bank, train station, a small harbour and the award-winning Timespan Visitor Centre (open daily Easter to October).
  • 'The Emigrants' statue in Couper Park was commissioned by Clearances Centre Ltd to commemorate the Highland Clearances.
  • The Helmsdale Highland Games take place in August in Couper Park (tel: 01431 821666).
  • The Helmsdale Tackle Company Ltd shop in Dunrobin Street has all you could possibly need to go fishing. Tel: 01431 821372.

Nine miles west of Helmsdale is Kildonan Burn, the site of the Great Sutherland Gold Rush of 1869. Today you have more chance of finding fossils and gemstones on the shoreline than gold in the hills - but you can always try your luck! Make sure you have checked the Suisgill Estate rules before you head off gold panning.  Equipment is available from Visitor Information in Helmsdale.

Things to do around Helmsdale:

 

History of Helmsdale

Once a busy Herring Port, the small harbour town of Helmsdale sits on the Moray Firth, at the mouth of the River Helmsdale where it reaches the North Sea. There is evidence of extensive prehistoric settlement in the area, and the modern name Helmsdale is derived from the Norse word Hjalmundsair (the valley of Hjalmund), which is mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas as a Viking settlement.

In the early medieval period a refuge was built for pilgrims on the long journey to the shrine at St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney and the Earls of Sutherland built a hunting lodge at West Helmsdale in 1488, which was rebuilt as a castle in 1615.

Nothing now remains of these early structures which were all demolished or buried under the modern town plan. Today’s town is a planned settlement with its regular street layout built in the early 1800s for crofters who had been evicted from the inland straths or valleys as part of the highland clearances. The river mouth was bridged for the first time in 1811 by Thomas Telford and the Old Bridge still survives, though it is now bypassed by the modern A9 road.

The town developed as a staging post for travellers with several inns and hotels, and as a centre for herring fishing through the 19th century based on the Old Harbour where a Customs House, curing yards and ice-house were built. The ice-house was built in 1824 and is probably the best surviving example in northern Scotland.

Today Helmsdale is a small town with many historic building and much to explore from it’s industrial past with a Helmsdale Heritage Trail starting at the local Timespan Museum.  Helmsdale is also excellently place for exploring the historic sites and monuments of northern Sutherland and into Caithness where the remains of over 600 years of human activity are still scattered around the landscape. 

Nine miles west of Helmsdale is Kildonan Burn, the site of the Great Sutherland Gold Rush of 1869. Today you have more chance of finding fossils and gemstones on the shoreline than gold in the hills - but you can always try your luck!  Make sure you have checked the Suisgill Estate rules before you head off gold panning. Equipment is available from the Visitor Information in Helmsdale.