|Scottish Gaelic: Bun Ilidh|
Helmsdale shown within the Sutherland area
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross|
|Scottish Parliament||Caithness, Sutherland and Ross|
Helmsdale (Scots: Helmsdal, Scottish Gaelic: Bun Ilidh) is a village on the east coast of Sutherland, in the Highland council area of Scotland. The modern village was planned in 1814 to resettle communities that had been removed from the surrounding straths as part of the Highland Clearances.
Helmsdale is a fishing port at the estuary of the River Helmsdale, and was once the home of one of the largest herring fleets in Europe. The river itself is well known for its fishing. West Helmsdale lies across the river from the main village above the railway station; Old Helmsdale is immediately to the north while East Helmsdale is a settlement less than a mile to the east.
The village is on the A9 road, at a junction with the A897, and has a railway station on the Far North Line. Buses operate about every two hours Mondays-Saturdays and infrequently on Sundays from Helmsdale to Brora, Golspie, Dornoch, Tain and Inverness in the south and Berriedale, Dunbeath, Halkirk, Thurso and Scrabster in the north. These are on route X99 and are operated by Stagecoach in the Highlands, but tickets can be bought on the Citylink website. Facilities in Helmsdale include an independent youth hostel, a heritage centre, an art gallery, and an inn.
Helmsdale river, (Gaelic Ilidh), is noted by Ptolemy as Ila, which remains an obscure name. The Gaelic name for the village, Bun Ilidh, means Ilie-foot. Norse settlers called the strath Hjalmundal, meaning Dale of the Helmet, from which the modern village name Helmsdale is derived.
Culture and sports
Helmsdale is famous for its Highland Games which are always the 3rd Saturday in August. Best known is the evening Marquee Dance where the village population of 700 more than doubles thanks to visitors attending the dance.
It is home to Bunillidh Thistle F.C. and Helmsdale United.
Helmsdale Castle, the remains of which were demolished in 1970s in order to build the new A9 road bridge, was the location of the murder of the 11th Earl of Sutherland in 1567. The Earl and his Countess Marie Seton were poisoned by Isobel Sinclair.
Two tributaries of the river experienced a gold rush in 1869. The history of Kildonan's gold started in 1818, when a single nugget of gold was found near the Suisgill and Kildonan burns. Scotland ensured its place in the history books late in 1868, when a brief announcement in a local newspaper stated that gold had been discovered at Kildonan in the county of Sutherland. The credit for the discovery goes to Robert Nelson Gilchrist, a native of Kildonan, who had spent 17 years in the goldfields of Australia. On his return home, he was given the permission by the Duke of Sutherland to pan the gravels of the Helmsdale River and he prospected all the burns and tributaries.
World War II
During World War II, the Royal Air Force built Loth Chain Home radar station at Crakaig a few miles South West of Helmsdale. There was also an RAF Chain Home Low radar station Navidale about a mile North East of Helmsdale. During the Cold War there was a Composite Signals Organisation radio monitoring station in Helmsdale itself, the CSO is associated with GCHQ.
The Highlands and Islands Council announced on 3 August 2008 plans to modernise and catalyse industry in Helmsdale and its surrounding areas, this included a £3.5 million re-vamp of the harbour and the development of two battery processing factories. Work on the harbour was set to begin in spring 2009 while the battery plants were expected to open before May 2009. It is hoped up to 50 new jobs will be created.
People from Helmsdale
Professor Andrew Rutherford CBE(1929-1998) Vice-Chancellor of the University of London from 1994-97
- Scots Language Centre: Scottish Place Names in Scots
- Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland
- Sutherland, Andrew. "A Brief History of Clan Sutherland". Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- Fraser, William, ed., Sutherland Book, vol.1 (1892), pp.121-4, 127-9
- Colvin, Howard (2008). "Burn, George". A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840. Yale University Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-300-12508-5. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- Anon. "The Scottish Gold Rush March 1869". Official website for the village of Helmsdale. helmsdale.org. Retrieved 2009-04-22.