Clais Charnach, Slipway

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Alternative Names Clashcarnach; Cape Wrath
Site Type EXPLOSIVES STORE (POSSIBLE), HUT(S), SLIPWAY, STOREHOUSE
Canmore ID 4723
Site Number NC27SE 4
NGR NC 2715 7353
Council HIGHLAND
Parish DURNESS
Former Region HIGHLAND
Former District SUTHERLAND
Former County SUTHERLAND
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Archaeological Notes

NC27SE 4 2715 7353

A slip for boats has also been made at Clashcarnach, three miles east of the cape, where the light-house yacht lands the oil and necessaries for the light-house; but is seldom attempted in stormy weather.
NSA 1841.

The jetty is in a very good condition (figure 14). There are a number of other structures nearby which are likely to be contemporary and associated with the jetty. On the right of the track road before reaching the jetty are the crumbling remains of a building, perhaps a water conduit. Slightly further on the left, there is a raised concrete platform of considerable size. This possibly functioned as a parking area for heavy surplus machinery and structures.
A Lieu 2000.

NC 27150 73531. The jetty is modern in date and remains ina good state of repair. it has not changed since it was visited one year ago. The jetty was probably used to supply the lighthouse given the fact that the nearest amenable landing place is on West Keodale pier some 10 miles to the east.
A Street 2001, 15.

The oil jetty remains in good condition; there is no apparent change to its physical appearance since its initial condition assessment in 2000. The jetty is still serviceable as a jetty point as was demonstrated when we landed a RM Rigid Raider craft at its moorings. The jetty is referred to as the oil jetty was used to supply the Lighthouse from the open sea rather than using the pier at West Keodale. There are also several associated buildings with jetty these have been abandoned but survive in a good condition.
A Street 2001, 38.

Clais Charnach is a steep-sided natural gully 1.7m SE of the Cape Wrath lighthouse (NC27SE 3.00), through which an un-named stream flows into the sea. The boulder beach provides the nearest point of access from the sea to the traditional pasturing land on the Cape, and when Sir Walter Scott landed here in 1814 with Robert Stevenson and the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse Board he described Clais Charnach as a 'small creek', where the ‘sea foam plays 'longbowls' with a huge collection of large stones some of them a ton in weight’ (Lockhart 1900). At this time there was no jetty or slipway, but Stevenson chose Clais Charnach as the site for a slipway and store house which would facilitate the construction and subsequent maintenance of the lighthouse he was to build in 1828. The contemporary cart road, which was built in 1827 to link the slipway to the lighthouse construction site, is described elsewhere (see NC27SE 28).
The slipway (CWTC08 111) and the store house (CWTC08 113) were also built in 1827. Nothing is now visible of the original slipway, which seems to have been a comparatively slight stone-built structure fronting onto the creek, which was ‘deepened and improved’ by the removal of large boulders (Stevenson 1827). The present slipway, which is set into the base of the cliff on the SE side of the gully, largely dates to 1863, but there is a more recent concrete extension and buttress. Built of quarried local stone with an edging of large basalt blocks, which must have been brought in by sea from elsewhere, the slipway was strengthened by wrought iron bracing that survives in places but elsewhere has entirely rusted away or been removed. The specification drawing (RCAHMS: DC 8499) for this reconstruction forms part of the Northern Lighthouse Board Collection currently held by RCAHMS.
The store house, which is situated about 30m SW of the slipway, is still in use as a store by the Ministry of Defence who now own it. It survives largely as it was constructed and comprises a single storey rectangular three bay structure with a central doorway and flanking windows on its NW side. It is built of dressed granite blocks with pinning of the highest quality with tooled granite quoins and dressings under a hipped slated roof. The interior consists of a single room with a large dressed granite fireplace opposite the central door. The floor is laid with flagstones, the un-rendered inner wall-faces bear the remains of whitewash, and the roof is sarked and constructed with sawn softwood timbers. The original vertically boarded double doors survive with an unusual sloping ‘doorstep’ to ease the movement of goods. The window openings that flank the door have never been fitted with windows but retain their original vertically boarded shutters that are wedged in place rather than hinged.
Situated immediately SW of the store house there are five rectangular stances or platforms (CWTC08 120–24), which have been set into the foot of the SE side of the gully. Measuring up to about 5m by 3.5m, they probably represent the remains of temporary timber buildings erected to house the men and store materials during the construction of the slipway and store house. A series of similar stances is visible adjacent to the contemporary and structurally identical store house at the N end of the Kyle of Durness (NC36NE 103). A small stone building, which stands amongst the platforms 31m SW of the store house, was probably an explosive store contemporary with the rebuilding of the slipway in 1863. Its interior is set into the foot of the natural slope and its walls now stand no more than 1.1m in height.
On the opposite side of the track from the platforms there are two quarries (CWTC08 125 & 275), which could have been opened for a number of reasons, including supplying stone for the building of: the original slipway or its rebuild in 1863; the store house; the cart track to the lighthouse, or the lighthouse itself. However, the winning of stone for construction purposes was not limited to quarry pits and elsewhere in the clais, along both sides of the gully, there are large boulders that bear evidence in the form of wedge holes, of having been used as a source for building stone (see NC27SE 7).
More recent constructions at the landing place include a concrete plinth (CWTC08 112), which is situated on the opposite of the track immediately NE of the store house. It measures 13.3m in length by 2.3m in breadth and about 1m in height, and the stainless steel bolts in its flat upper surface indicate that it was built with the intention of serving as a solid base, possibly for storage tanks. This plinth overlies a low concrete pad, only the NW corner of which is now visible. This pad probably provided the solid footing for a winch that would have been required to pull boats onto the slipway. A pile of scrap metal (CWTC08 108) on the beach below contains machinery parts, including large cast iron cogged wheels that may be contemporary with the earliest use of the slipway.
(CWTC08 108, 111–14, 120–25, 275)
Visited by RCAHMS (JRS, SG), 14 August 2008.

4 August 2008 to 15 August 2008
 PROJECT

Further details

 
Books and References

Graham and Gordon, A and J (1988) 'Old harbours in northern and western Scotland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.117
Page(s): 322

Lieu, A (2000) Cape Wrath Naval Bombing Range: Operation Auk - An Archaeological Update
Page(s): 7

Lockhart, J G (1842) Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Edinburgh
Held at RCAHMS H.2.SCO

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