Limestone pavements in
and around Durness


Durness Limestone

With the Loch Eriboll fjord being formed along the weak, lowermost sections of the main Moine Thrust Zone, this is an excellent place to appreciate how geology controls the landscape.  To the west is the uniform dip-slope of the undeformed sedimentary sequence (i.e. the Caledonian Foreland) whereas the rugged topography to the east of the loch relates to the remainder of the thrust zone which exhibits some of the most complex geology in the British isles.


Durness Limestone

The limestone pavements around Durness help support an unusually diverse flora community rich in northern and arctic-alpine species. This is mainly due to the grikes between the pavement blocks which provide a relatively humid shelter from the strong winds and are also inaccessible to grazing animals.

With high levels of calcium carbonate being available within these microhabitats, the habitat is suitable only for those species that can tolerate these conditions such as Mountain Aven, Burnet Rose and the orchid Dark-red Helleborine. However, with accumulations of richer soil also developing within the shady, humid grikes, typical woodland herbs such as the Primrose and Dog’s Mercury can also grow.

Other species to look out for in the pavement areas (particularly those further inland) are various varieties of fern including Hart’s tongue, Brittle bladder-fern and Hard shield-fern. Stone Brambles may also be found within some of the grikes, with the name coming from the large stones found within the red berries rather than from them clinging to the stone pavements to stop them being swept into the sea!



The most accessible pavements are at Lerinbeg, immediately east of Sango Bay. For access (from Durness village), walk towards Smoo Cave and keep turning left along the roads / tracks after Sango Bay until you reach the disused buildings (formerly part of the WWII RAF Sango radar station). Other excellent ‘true limestone’ examples can be found just SSW of the Sangomore mobile mast (best accessed via the waterworks track just off the Bhlar Duibhe / Meadaidh walking routes). Alternatively, several can also be seen above the escarpment immediately east of Loch Borralie.