Smoo Cave

Durness, Scotland, UK (Great Britain)

About Smoo Cave


Hiking Distance: 1/2-mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2014-08-25
Date last visited: 2014-08-25

Waterfall Latitude: 58.56339
Waterfall Longitude: -4.71976

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Smoo Cave was supposed to be one of the more unusual waterfalling excursions in that we were well aware that it featured a waterfall spilling into a pothole deep inside the cave itself.

However, when we visited in late August 2014, the access footpath to get into the chamber with the waterfall was closed as a result of storm damage that really did in the area earlier in the month.

Durness_042_08252014 - Entrance to the Smoo Cave
Entrance to the Smoo Cave

So all we have to show for it was a cave visit with audio from the loud crashing water coming from the waterfall room.

However, we have nothing visual as far as the waterfall itself.

Until we are fortunate to come back under conditions where we can see the waterfall with our own eyes, we can’t give it a higher rating since we can’t honestly say that we’ve experienced the waterfall itself.

Only upon a successful re-visit would we consider re-evaluating the scenic rating score.

Visiting the Smoo Cave

Durness_031_08252014 - Julie and Tahia descending towards the entrance to the Smoo Cave
Julie and Tahia descending towards the entrance to the Smoo Cave

As for visiting the cave itself, we began from a well-signposted and established car park just less than a mile east of the small town of Durness (see directions below).

Since the site had free parking, I was quite surprised that we were able to find parking without much difficulty.

If in the odd chance that the car park would be too full, there would be backup parking at the much larger lot at the visitor centre in Durness.

From the visitor centre, we’d have to walk the near mile to even get started.

Durness_041_08252014 - Looking towards the mouth of the inlet containing the Smoo Cave
Looking towards the mouth of the inlet containing the Smoo Cave

Anyways, once we parked the car, we then walked down a series of steps leading from the cliff tops down to the stream leaving the mouth of the Smoo Cave.

From a bridge down there, we got nice views of the impressively large cave entrance, and it hastened our steps to get into the cave as soon as we could.

Once we were inside the cool confines of the cave, we walked around the stream past some signage talking about tours and the storm damage closure.

Then, we briefly crossed the shallow stream before getting onto the wooden walkway with a rooftop shelter.

Durness_049_08252014 - About to enter the mouth of the Smoo Cave
About to enter the mouth of the Smoo Cave

Speaking of the storm damage, it could be possible that storm surges might have caused an inrush of water from the ocean to enter the cave.

Either that, or the pothole waterfall further in the cave was so flooded that it damaged the walking infrastructure that otherwise would have allowed us to view the falls safely and for free.

Anyways, it was from this walkway that barricades were erected to prevent further access as a result of the storm damage to the walkway further beyond this point.

There were a couple of guys with hard hats working on the walkway so I’d imagine any attempts at hopping the barricade would have been met with resistance from these guys.

Durness_064_08252014 - Context of an open hole atop the main chamber of the Smoo Cave as well as a closed-off sheltered walkway leading to a room where the Smoo Cave Waterfall would have been
Context of an open hole atop the main chamber of the Smoo Cave as well as a closed-off sheltered walkway leading to a room where the Smoo Cave Waterfall would have been

While it was disappointing at not being able to see the waterfall in the cave (the very reason why we came all the way out here in the first place), I’d have to say the size of this cave was impressive.

In fact, it was said to be the largest sea cave in Britain.

Moreover, the surrounding area of Durness had its own raw beauty from fine sand beaches to rocky cliffs with offshore sea stacks.

Overall, our visit only took 35 minutes, but it would have been longer had we been able to spend more time in the waterfall room.

Authorities

The Smoo Cave resides in Durness in the county of Sutherland, Scotland. It may be administered by the parish of Durness. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website or the Smoo Cave Tours website.

Durness_030_08252014 - Beginning the descent down to the Smoo Cave from behind the immediate buildings by the nearest car park
Durness_035_08252014 - Tahia taking her time going down the steps to the entrance of the Smoo Cave below
Durness_039_08252014 - Tahia continuing her side-to-side step before going down the next step on the way to the mouth of the Smoo Cave
Durness_071_08252014 - Context of the mouth of the Smoo Cave as seen from a different trail leading down to the bottom of the sea cliffs
Durness_080_08252014 - The mouth of the impressive Smoo Cave
Durness_089_08252014 - The consolation prize for Smoo Cave Waterfall being inaccessible was Tahia getting to spend more time playing in the sand at the beach by the Durness Visitor Center

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Smoo Cave was near the town of Durness on the far northwest extreme of Highland Scotland.

To get here from Inverness, we took a route that involved taking the A9 towards Tore (a little over 8 miles), then taking the A835 (becoming A837) towards the A894 (about 74 miles).

Then, we’d follow the A894 for another 18 miles before it merges with the A838 road.

Durness_020_08252014 - Context of the parking and trailhead for the short trail leading down to the mouth of the Smoo Cave as seen from the Durness Visitor Centre
Context of the parking and trailhead for the short trail leading down to the mouth of the Smoo Cave as seen from the Durness Visitor Centre

We then followed the A838 road (most of which was single lane and heavily-trafficked) the last 20 miles to the Smoo Cave Car Park.

This car park was 1.5 miles east of the Durness Visitor Center along the A838 or 0.8 miles cutting right across a narrow local road before rejoining the A838.

Overall, this 124-mile drive would take about 2.5-3 hours without stops.

I’m sure there are other ways to get to Durness from Inverness, but our route was largely based on trying to visit other attractions in the Northwestern Highlands of Scotland along the way.

Anyways, for additional context, our base of Inverness was 57 miles (90 minutes drive) southeast of Ullapool, 155 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Edinburgh and 169 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Glasgow.

Examining the shallow cave with the waterfall audible, but we were unable to access due to storm damage to the path that would have allowed us to get there.

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Tagged with: durness, sutherland, scotland, uk, united kingdom, waterfall, highlands, unapool, kylesku



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Smoo Cave April 6, 2009 11:51 am by Chris L - A small, but elegant waterfall plunging into a cave just outside the village of Durness on Scotland's north coast. The cave itself is actually the inside of a cliff which is entered from the beach, where the ocean washes up inside a gorge. The gorge and the seafront alone would be worth the visit, but… ...Read More

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