Smoo cave and sango bay

By Andrew Jarret

Any visit to Durness isn't complete without a visit to Smoo Cave and the delightful Sango Bay. Cutting deeply into limestone cliffs, Smoo Cave has the largest entrance of any sea cave in the UK. The interior is floodlit and its innermost depths are accessible only by boat.

A car park and toilet block have been created near the entrance to the cave on the Tongue-Durness road. An information board and signpost point the way down to the main entrance which is reached by a rapidly descending path. Steps have been cut to make the going easier and there is a handrail to assist further.

Once on the pebbly beach, continue right and cross the stream via a set of old railway sleepers to the cave. The entrance - which is about 130 feet wide and 50 feet high - is unmissable. Explore the inside of this first vast chasm before following the path and covered walkway which leads to an inner chamber. Here, the sound of crashing water dominates the gloom as the Allt Smoo pours down 80 feet from above. After heavy rain this waterfall produces a deafening roar and lingering awhile will leave you damp with so much moisture in the air. A boat is needed to experience the third chamber, which lies further back.

The word 'Smoo' orginates from the Norse word ''Sumvya'' which means creek or cleft and excavations have shown that the cave was used for a variety of purposes by early settlers in the area 6000 years ago.

Emerging from the main chamber, pick up the track which climbs the eastern side of the inlet. A large number of previous visitors have left their names on the hillside here, spelled out for all to see in white pebbles. The path rises steeply and curves back over the main entrance, passing a blowhole, before arriving back at the car park.

About a kilometre further along the road towards Durness lies the tropically-sounding Sango Bay. On a beautiful sunny day the dazzling white sands and crystal clear emerald waters may further fool you into thinking you have stumbled onto the set of ''Shipwrecked'' but more than likely the blustery winds will have you reaching for your Gore-tex! Whatever the weather, take some time to savour the pristine beach which stretches for about a mile past a small headland before returning to Smoo.


Distance 3 miles/5km (Smoo Cave circuit to Sango Bay and return to Smoo car park).
Map OS Landranger sheet 9.
Start/parking Smoo Cave public car park on A838 Durness to Tongue road a mile south-east of Durness. GR: NC 418670.
Grading Easy walking suitable for all abilities and ages. Steep descent and ascent involved at
the cave but path and handrails all the way.