THE largest coastline cave in the UK – and a popular tourist attraction – is to be closed for safety work to be carried out.
Smoo Cave is located at the eastern edge of the village of Durness, on Scotland’s most northerly coastline.
Set into limestone cliffs, the cave is over 200ft long, has an unusual geological formation and rich archaeological history which attracts over 43,000 visitors a year.
Highland Council has appointed Rope Access Scotland to undertake rock stability works in the area, beginning next Monday.
It is expected to take two weeks to complete, and includes light rock scaling, netting and bolting and will be overseen by geotechnical experts from consultants URS Infrastructure & Environment UK Limited.
For the duration of the works both the cave and paths down to the cave will be closed for public access.
The eastern path to the headland and the bridge over the waterfall will be kept open except for short periods when work is taking place immediately adjoining or underneath.
Councillor George Fallow, vice-chairman of the council’s planning, environment and development committee, said: “The works proposed are essential for the site to be maintained in a safe condition so we can continue public access to the cave so I am glad to see a date for the job has been set.
“The council’s ownership and management of Smoo Cave directly supports our economic development objective to delivery a quality tourism product in this remote and fragile area.
“Smoo Cave is a key site in terms of both archaeology and geology and has a unique contribution to make within the North West Sutherland Geopark.
“The provision of quality countryside recreation also supports the Council’s commitment to strong, healthy communities. “
The first chamber of the unique cave, named from the Norse ‘smjugg’ or ‘smuga’ – meaning hiding-place or hole – was formed by the action of the sea, while the inner chambers are freshwater passages which were formed from rainwater dissolving the limestone.
There have also been digs which have found artefacts from the Neolithic, Norse and Iron Ages.