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Helmsdale is a fishing village in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands, about two hours by road or rail north of Inverness. The name derives from Norse Hjalmundal, the "Dale of the Helmet". The village was planned and built on a grid pattern in the early 19th century to accommodate those who were being evicted from the valleys above to make way for sheep, the infamous "Highland Clearances". There was a brief gold rush along the river in 1869.

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

  • 1 Helmsdale railway station (200 yards west of the village.). Four trains a day M-Sat run north from Inverness via Dingwall, Tain, Golspie (for Dunrobin Castle) and Brora to Helmsdale, taking 2 hrs 30 min. There's only one train on Sunday. They continue north to Thurso and Wick. Helmsdale railway station (Q2412149) on Wikidata Helmsdale railway station on Wikipedia

By bus[edit]

Stagecoach Highlands Bus X98 / X99 runs four times daily from Inverness via Tain, Dornoch and Brora to Helmsdale, 2 hours; two on Sunday. The buses continue north to Wick and Thurso.

Stagecoach Bus 66 runs three times a day from Lairg via Golspie and Brora to Helmsdale, 80 mins. Lairg has buses to Kinlochbervie and Durness on the west coast.

Get around[edit]

The village is walkable but you need a car to reach the distillery or Badbea.


  • 1 The Emigrants Monument. Commemorates those who left the Highlands. It's by the A9 road bridge across the river: building this in the 1970s demolished what was left of Helmsdale castle.
  • 2 Timespan Museum and Gallery, Dunrobin Street, KW8 6JA, +44 1431 821327. Mar-Oct daily 10:00-17:00, Nov-Feb Tu 12:00-16:00, Sa Su 10:00-15:00. Local history museum, covering the Clearances, and the Helmsdale gold rush of 1869. You can still pan for gold further up the valley. With café. Adult £4.
  • 3 Badbea (5 miles north of Helmsdale along A9). Was a village whose inhabitants were evicted to make way for sheep. Such remains are dotted all over these hills and glens but this is one of the most accessible. Badbea (Q4840650) on Wikidata Badbea on Wikipedia
  • 4 Clynelish Distillery, Brora KW9 6LR (10 miles south of Helmsdale on A9), +44 1408 623000, . Mar-Oct M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Nov-Feb M-Sa 10:00-15:00. Diageo whisky distillery, most product blended into Johnnie Walker but issues some single malt. Standard tour £12. Clynelish Distillery (Q124932) on Wikidata Clynelish distillery on Wikipedia


  • Helmsdale Highland Games, Couper Park. These are held on the middle Saturday of August. Parades, pipe bands, tug of war, caber-tossing, and track and field events. The 2020 event is cancelled so the next are on Sat 21 Aug 2021.




  • Try Bannockburn Inn or Tartan Lounge, both on Stafford Street.



Go next[edit]

Routes through Helmsdale
Thurso/Wick  NE UK road A9.svg SW  TainInverness

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