gold-hunting at dirlot cemetery

After I’d visited Achanarras Quarry, I headed down the road, through Westerdale, to Dirlot Cemetery. One of the many things I love about Caithness are the tiny, random cemeteries dotted throughout the county in the middle of nowhere, and this was one that I’d been told about a while back, but never got round to visiting.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to get there as the directions I’d been given varied with those I found online. But it’s as simple as this – drive through Westerdale. Turn into the sand quarry on the left (yes, you can drive through it – I wasn’t sure). Drive past the house on the right, and park up at the house on the left which has a farm building across the road from it. Behind the farm building is a gate – go through it and follow the track to the cemetery.

Dirlot Cemetery is an anomaly in that it’s built in the shape of a pentagon, which was a risky move back back in ye olden dayes due to it’s associations with witchcraft. But its believed that this unusual shape is due to a masonic connection, rather than anything darker, which is a shame as I’d hoped to unearth some spooky legend about a witch buried within it’s walls.

The cemetery itself is small, overgrown and peaceful, with some wonderful old gravestones. I was particularly taken with the haunting and photogenic, lichen-covered mourning woman.

Some wonderful blue orbs courtesy of the sun, but they have a lovely, angelic look about them.

Dirlot Cemetery was also once the site of an ancient chapel and burial ground, not to mention the site of two battles between warring clans, so there’s a lot of history in this bleak, silent place. And just across the river once stood Dirlot Castle. The castle was built in the 14th century and was very small, not to mention precariously sited on top of a large rock on the bank of the River Thurso. The rock is about 40 ft high so how they managed to build a bloody castle on it, is anyone’s guess, but it would have been a great lookout point as the landscape here is so flat and barren.

Below the castle rock is the infamous and bottomless Devil’s Pool, in which a fierce water kelpie guards a trove of golden treasure, and where many a brave diver has met their match. The legend of the Devil’s Pool has some truth in it, in that divers have been lost over the years, but a brave local historian put paid to the myth, by diving the pool himself and confirming that it is in fact not bottomless (who’d have thought it…), but there are gaps among the boulders which could feasibly have trapped some of the unfortunate divers who had scaled its depths before him. As for the gold? Yes, he confirmed there does appear to be gold – millions of tiny pieces of it floating in the water. Three rivers in this part of the world contain gold, and the Devil’s Pool has captured some of the flakes as they make their way downstream.

I should probably point out that despite the title of this post, I did not dive into the pool and search for gold; I just thought the title followed on nicely from my fossil-hunting at Achanarras Quarry. I’ll hopefully return one day and make my way down the riverbank for a closer look, but by this stage I was getting hungry (I’d missed lunch, I’ll have you know), so it was time to head home.

It was just over a month ago that I took the above photographs, and as much as I usually claim that autumn is my favourite season, looking at these photographs has made me yearn for the blue skies and light evenings of summer. It seems such a long time ago already.

4 thoughts on “gold-hunting at dirlot cemetery

  1. Hi, thank you for this post. I live in Wick and some time ago came across a photo in the Johnston collection of a memorial statue in a stonemasons yard. I think it may be your lichen lady. I have it saved in my photos but don’t know how to attach it here. Email me if you would like me to send it to you. There is also a similar one in Dunnet cemetery but it is not kneeling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *