Smoo Cave – Durness, Scotland – From Home to End – 08

smooviewstairs

11.7.14

Ceannabeinne Beach

Yuri points out, ‘You know another good thing about this place? No advertising.’

He’s right. No roadside billboards, no flyers plastered to lampposts and buildings, no shopping centres flashing neon propaganda. No shopping centres at all. Not for a hundred miles. And back home you get adverts for the mall you’re already walking around.

Thank you for shopping at Westgate.

Don’t thank me. There’s no need. You attribute to me a choice in your favour where no such choice exists. Not really. Convenience and a distaste for Amazon bought me here. When every temple of commercialism is the same you may as well go to the closest. 

Thank you for shopping at Westgate, really, that’s just, Thank you for contributing to our bank accounts at the expense of your own.

I live better without the constant subliminals.

Anyway…

On the 9th, we toured Smoo Cave. It starts with a huge chamber at the end of a long, narrow inlet. The water leading toward it has the green colour of the weed below. Once, the cave would have included a lot of this inlet too. You can see in places fragments of the old ceiling, now covered in grass and used as canvases by visitors to mark their names in pebbles. To get to the cave you have to take a large staircase that follows the contour of the cliff wall as it turns in on itself and out again before reaching sea-level. The site is unique in that it’s entrance was formed by seawater while the rear chambers were carved by fresh water from the mountains.

This cave has been a communal site for humans for possibly as long as 10,000 years. The Vikings landed here and used it when the whole island was a gamble and a mystery. Before them, the hunter-gatherers who settled in the country, possibly taking a now submerged land bridge from France—the Weald-Artois Anticline—and working their way to the distant north over subsequent generations, did the same. Archaeologists have found the cracked nut shells and arrowheads those people discarded, as well as charcoal and animal bones. Ancient man took shelter here and cooked his kills.

smoooldroof

smooentrance

The tour was led by Colin. He was a self employed tour guide, geologist and archaeologist who left a great impression on us. A portion of his life consisted of exploring beautiful caves, finding what secrets they held. He was almost Indiana Jones. As he took us into the cave on a dinghy he told us about his suspicions that centuries ago many more caverns and tunnels were accessible but due to flooding a lot of it is underwater or filled in. This seemed to be his main area of intrigue, he wanted to chart those unknown parts of the cave system. There was an air of excitement about him when he spoke of his discoveries and the ongoing work to excavate deeper. His enthusiasm spread to us quickly, although inside the cold interior of the Earth, surrounded by its million year sculpting projects, little encouragement was necessary.

Inside the second chamber, where you board the boat and move into the cave-proper, there’s a waterfall that keeps a carp pool filled. Colin took us to the centre of it, maybe about 5 metres from the cave walls on either side, and threw some food into the water. For a second the water was alive, sleek black backs appeared in the beams of our torches, and then disappeared again.

Getting further into the cave meant taking a small boat and ducking under low arches of rock. The walls felt like ice and emitted cold but the air seemed strangely fresh, the smell damp and musty but clean. We could have spent hours there.

smoowaterfall

smoocavetunnelgoodpic

Just for the record, Camera Thief by Atmosphere, Lotus Flower by Radiohead and Aurora by Bjork are going down very well this trip. Bjork sounds good in any cave. We’ve tested it in a few now.

About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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11 Responses to Smoo Cave – Durness, Scotland – From Home to End – 08

  1. Lana says:

    Chas & Dave I reckon would sound mint down there.

    Like

    • Luke Smith says:

      Me and some musician friends recently went on a five hour drive to do an overnight jam in a cave. Can confirm that it would sound awesome. I wouldn’t go for Chas and Dave but you can believe if that’s your thing it’d sound great with cave acoustics.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Isabelle says:

    I was once in a cave in Majorca many years ago, and I still remember the thrill it gave me when watching a couple dancing on a boat with some magical lighting shinning on them.

    Beautiful pictures. I would have loved to be there, feeling the icy walls and listening to Bjork.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luke Smith says:

      Thank you. I checked out cave in Ibiza which I think has similar geology to Majorca and found that a very affecting experience too. I’m not sure what it is about caves, they feel very primal and there’s a sense of mystery to them which seems to enhance everything. Always great to read your thoughts, Isabelle!

      Like

  3. joshi daniel says:

    That is something great 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Camping on Ceannabeinne Beach, Wandering Durness – From Home to End – 10 | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

  5. Robyn Haynes says:

    Amazing pictures. I’d love to explore as you did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luke Smith says:

      Thanks for saying so and commenting! The great thing about how I explore is it takes little preparation. Find somewhere you want to go and then pick a direction once you arrive and walk until you find something special. Or drive until you do. That’s how we got to this place and everywhere else on this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: From Home to End – Adventures in the Highlands | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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