Smoo Cave has to be included in any stay in north west Scotland. Set into limestone cliffs, Smoo Cave is large – 200 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 50 feet high at the entrance. There are steps leading down to the cave that can be accessed all year. Smoo has a deep sink hole and underground waterfalls, with one of the largest and most dramatic entrances in the country. Smoo Cave, is 1⅓ miles east of Durness, where the Allt Smoo falls down an open shaft and flows through a series of huge chambers to emerge at sea level into a deep and dramatic tidal gorge is the most spectacular cave in Scotland. It was believed to be the home of spirits who guarded this entrance to the nether world. “The first Lord of Reay (Donald Mackay, Chief of Clan Mackay) met with the devil and was able to get the better of him. The Prince of Darkness was none too pleased about this and followed Donald Mackay to Durness where he sought to waylay him in Smoo Cave. Lord Reay was heading for the cavern just before dawn but had the good fortune to send his dog into the blackness in front of him. When the animal came out howling and hairless the master of Reay realised what lay in store for him. He held back for a moment and in that moment the sun rose. In the light of day, the devil was powerless and left through the roof of the cave leaving the three holes seen today”. Source: Alexander Po
Among the many local legends surrounding the cave is that of the feared highway man McMurdo. Legend has it that during the sixteen century, McMurdo murdered his victims by throwing them down the blowhole into the cave. In or about the year 1720, the Clan Gunn from the borders’ of Sutherland made an unexpected raid on the district of Durness. The inhabitants were taken unawares, and being unprepared had no alternative but to resort to stratagem, pretending to flee to safety they enticed the guns to follow them into the depths of the Smoo cave when once there they concealed themselves in the hidden recesses and crevices of this underground passageway in the limestone rocks from which they slaughtered the Gunns to the very last man. A few years after the ‘45 uprising an Inland Revenue Supervisor (taxman) in the company of another Excise Officer, were ordered by the government, to suppress the illegal practice of working small stills (whisky) in the district of Durness, having authority to arrest the person involved in such illicit practices with power to confiscate their distilling plant. A Donald Mackay, who resided in the vicinity of the Smoo Cave, conducted them in his small boat into the inner chambers of the cave, where the illicit practice of distilling was, being carried out in uninterrupted fashion. On this particular occasion on which Donald Mackay was employed by them, the Smoo Burn was in high flood, and on pushing off from the anchorage inside the second chamber of the cave, Mackay observed that the two taxmen were literally terrified, as he rowed them into the spray of the waterfall inside it. Donald Mackay, maneuvered his craft into dangerous proximity to the crashing furies at the base of the fall and purposely capsized the boat, when he swam to safety, leaving the two unfortunate Inland Revenue officers to drown amid the angry waters. Rumours has it that one of the bodies has never been found to this day.
Smoo Cave is fully accessible 365 days a year public access with a walkway into the waterfall chamber, free of charge. It will take 10 minutes to walk to the waterfall / lake chamber, if not then you miss out on some serious Scottish geology.