Helmsdale sits on the east coast of Sutherland at the mouth of the River Helmsdale. There has been a settlement -
and a natural harbour - at this spot since ancient times, but the village you see today was largely planned and
constructed in the early 19th century as a home for the crofters who were evicted from their properties during
The harbour was built at the same time. Construction began in 1816 and was completed by 1818. Many of the
displaced crofters were able to make a living from the sea as fishermen. The herring industry brought wealth
and employment to the village for much of the 19th century, but the early 20th century saw its decline and
eventual demise. However the harbour today is still home to a number of small fishing vessels.
Fishing of a different kind is one of the area's main attractions. The River Helmsdale is regarded as one of the
best salmon fishing rivers in the north and anglers come from far and wide to cast from its banks.
The main road north passes through Helmsdale, as does the railway line, meaning that it is easy to reach.
Although the road now crosses the river via a modern bridge (built on the site of the ancient Helmsdale Castle
which was demolished to make way for the new road in the 1970s), it used to cross one of Thomas Telford's bridges.
This bridge was built in the early 19th century as part of a wider scheme to improve transport across the
Highlands. The bridges at Loch Fleet and Bonar Bridge
were also part of this scheme.
The village has a number of hotels as well as guest houses and bed & breakfasts, so the visitor is not short of
possible accomoodation. There are also a number of restaurants and small local shops. Helmsdale is also home to the
award winning Timespan museum and visitor centre and also has its own golf course.
One unusual tourist attraction is the possibility to pan for gold at nearby Kildonan,
site of the Scottish Gold Rush of 1869. Visitors are able to rent the necessary equipment from shops in the village.