Out and About
You don't have to go far to find attractions and activities to see and do around Helmsdale. Whether it is long sandy beaches, rolling coastlines or something more exhillerating that appeals to you such as horse riding or hiking you will find it here.
If it is the Scottish culture you wish to experience then we also have a castle nearby and the odd distillary too.
Helmsdale has two beaches which are seperated by the harbour and the river estuary. The beach leading south from the river is accessed from the A9 or from the old bridge in the village. The north beach is accessed from the harbour. Both have established paths leading you along the shoreline. They are rugged and rocky which is typical of the Scottish coastline. The
Helmsdale beaches are the best places in Scotland to collect jurasic fossils. Geologists have been fasinated by their strange bolder beds which are rich in reptile remains, giant corals and fish remains. The occasional ammonite can also be found on the beach.
If it is a sandy beach you are after you will not be disappointed. This rugged coastline changes to soft white sand approximately 3 miles to the south at Loth and Brora has an award-winning beach stretching for miles.
Oyster catchers, herons and seals habitate the area and can be seen swimming or basking on the rocks.
Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, is a short drive south or you can catch a train there from Helmsdale railway station. The castle has been home to the earls and dukes of Sutherland since the early 13th century and is still the residence of the present Countess of Sutherland, Elizabeth Sutherland.
The castle is open to view from April until October along with it's Beautiful gardens which were originally desighned by Sir Charles Barry in the 1850s as a representation of Versailles. The castle's resident falconer gives displays of his birds of prey twice daily at 11:30am and 2:00pm.
If it is one thing Helmsdale River is renowned for it is it's excellent salmon fishing. It is one of the most productive salmon rivers in the whole of Scotland. Those lucky enough to fish the River Helmsdale will have a chance of hooking a fish from the opening day of the season on the 11thJanuary right through until the river closes on 30th September.
The fishing is divided into twelve beats, six above the falls of Kildonan and six below, with one top beat and one bottom beat available to two rods each day, allowing a total of twelve rods to fish. As on all northern rivers, fishing is by fly only
Fishing permits can be bought from The Garrison in Helmsdale.
In 1868 a local man started a gold rush when he found a large quantity of gold in the Suisgill and Killdonan burns. Hundreds of people set up camp at Baile an Or and a small community settled there for a while. This however was short lived but you can still pan for gold at certain parts of the estate today as a recreation activity.
Recreational gold panning within strict rules is permitted on two of the burns on Suisgill Estate.The first, Kildonan Burn, is the only one which is open to the general public. It is located at the site of Baile an Or and a stretch of it is open, for a small fee (from 2018), for a maximum of two weeks a year. Free camping is available and panners are required to purchase a permit from The Garrison in Helmsdale. Equipment is also available to hire there.
Don't get too exited. The gold is there however the specks are small and mostly dust so your spoils may not be enough to pay for your holiday! It is a great day out though and the children love it as the exitement is in the anticipation of finding that rare nugget.
Whether your stay is for 2 nights or 2 weeks, there is plenty to do and enjoy in the village. Helmsdale river boasts the best salmon fishing in the area and you can even go gold panning up the strath or do a spot of golfing at Helmdale Golf Club.. Visit Timespan in the village for your fishing permits and gold panning equipment hire and whilst you are there take a look at the exhibits that are on display which give a glimpse of life in the area; both past and present. You may even like to have lunch or a snack at their Riverside Cafe.
The La Mirage restaurant boasts the best fish supper in the highlands and it certainly lives up to its name! For a more congenial culinary experience, the Thyme and Plaice restaurant offers traditional homemade food and baking. It's welcoming, friendly atmosphere means that you feel at home whether it is a fullcourse meal you are eating or just enjoying a cake and cuppa on the sofa.
There are 2 pubs in the village,a gift shop, tackle and outdoor shop and Spar store. You will find the Garrison cafe/gift shop at the harbour. Take a walk along the harbour wall or further along you will find the coastal path where you can observe herons, oystercatchers and seals.. Jurassic rock formations run from the Helmsdale shoreline to Brora beach. Look closely and you will find many fossils in them.