Northwest Highlands Geopark Logo

Sea Caves of Loch Eriboll

Loch Eriboll
[58.498897, -4.678633]
Brendan O’ Hanrahan
North West Highlands Geopark

Along the eastern shore of Loch Eriboll sits several large sea caves, including Uamh Freisgill. The caves have always elicited strong traditions which are maintained to the present day. Local folklore suggests that the caves was used by smugglers, for hiding whisky, brandy and other contraband. The bigger caves have steep-sides and are relatively exposed…

Along the eastern shore of Loch Eriboll sits several large sea caves, including Uamh Freisgill. The caves have always elicited strong traditions which are maintained to the present day. Local folklore suggests that the caves was used by smugglers, for hiding whisky, brandy and other contraband. The bigger caves have steep-sides and are relatively exposed to the waves. They also offer few shelves or other spaces or surfaces suitable for storing casks or other valuable items, which puts the smuggling claims in doubt.

However, a better location was offered by local marine guide, Will Copestake. According to Will there is a smaller, yet spacious cave on the other side of a waterfall, measuring a height of approximately 12-15 metres. It is located where Allt an t-Srathain meets the sea to the south of Freisgill. The waterfall hides the presence of the cave ensuring that few visitors are aware of it. The hidden gem, houses a small shingle and pebble beach, where small boats could be hauled. This mysterious cave may be the most likely location for the unsavoury activity, in local folklore, presuming there was such a thing as a smugglers’ cave in the area in the first place. 

The SNH survey in 2015 also documented a large (but smaller than above) cave close by Uamh Freasgill, which they called Uamh Freasgill 2. This similar, but smaller cave was at least 60 m in length and showed similar flora and fauna to the larger one. Spectacular natural arches and associated caves and tunnels were also recorded by SNH in 2015 from the area north of Geodha a’ Bhrideoin – see photograph from 2018 report.

Gordon Ridley’s 1998 book Dive North-West Scotland, notes that the area around Rubh’ a’ Mhuilt was “an area with lots of interesting clefts and sea caves”. Tony Oldham’s book on the caves of northern Britain mentions a cave in the cliffs south of Geodha Meiril, which was at least 30 m in depth. Further to the north, the Ordnance Survey depicts two sea-caves at Cnoc nan Gobhar.Uamh Freisgill is still however one of the most spectacular of the sea caves on the eastern side of Loch Eriboll at least, which is recorded to be over 140m in length.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has recorded several species of flora and sessile marine fauna  in Uamh Freisgill including the abundant Hildenbrandia and Verrucaria lichens, as well as encrusting Semibalanus balanoides barnacles and Patella vulgata limpets. Halichondria and Clathrina coriacea sponges were also abunant, along with Dendrodoa grossularia sea squirts.

Watch Loch Eriboll on YouTube

Websites for further information

Allt an t-Strathain Waterfall Cave

Nature Scot

Image Acknowledgements

Hildenbrandia Rivularis: Public Domain Source: Wikipedia

Verrucaria nigrescens: Public Domain Source: Wikipedia

Map Image: Copyright: Grampian Speleological Society, Source: Grampian Speleological Society registry website. http://registry.gsg.org.uk/sr/sitedetails.php?id=1854 

Kayaker in mouth of Freisgill cave: Copyright Will Copestake.

Relocation sheet Uamh Freasgill: Scottish Natural Heritage Report, pg. 224

Uamh Freasgill: Scottish Natural Heritage Report, pg. 226

Uamh Freasgill, Physical Survey: Scottish Natural Heritage Report, pg. 227