Durness is the most north westerly point in the British mainland which boasts spectacular scenery with a rocky coastline, pristine beaches with turquoise waters, a wide array of wildlife and vast open spaces which makes it a great escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Hillwalkers and mountain climbers will find this place a heaven as it offers towering cliffs, rugged mountains and expansive moorlands which all provide fantastic but sometimes challenging walking trails.
The name was originally Norse “Dyrnes”, meaning “deer headland”. No one knows for sure where the name derives; it has variously been translated as from “Dorainn nis” tempest point, or “Dhu thir nis” the point of the black land; or from the Norse for deerpoint. Or even from the main village “Durine” which would translate as “Dhu Rinn” the black (or fertile) promontory, with the Norse “ness” tacked on to an existing Gaelic name.
The area has been inhabited since stone age times and there are many places of historic interest. Durness was formerly a part of the bishopric of Caithness and the old house at Balnakeil was originally the Bishop’s summer residence. The church at Balnakeil dates back to the Culdean monks but the existing ruined church is said to have been built by the monks from Dornoch Cathedral in the 13th century
Cape Wrath, to the west of the parish across the Kyle of Durness is the site of the Cape Wrath Training Area, a military live firing range. The area is used for gunnery practice by naval and air forces as well as a training area for land forces. It is the only military firing range in the U.K. where aircraft are allowed to deliver 1000-pound bombs.