Sunday, 1 July 2012

CAPE WRATH

There are certain geographical features whose very name strikes terror into the hearts of those who come into close contact with them. Few such names can be more intimidating than Cape Wrath, a name which conjures up images of an angry, boiling sea and ships being tossed around like playground toys. However, appropriate though the name undoubtedly is, the actual origin of it is the Old Norse 'hvarf' meaning 'turning point'.  The Cape, which is in the extreme north-west of the British mainland, is one of only two in Britain, the other being Cape Cornwall at the opposite end of the country. Not surprisingly, there have been a number of ships wrecked off the cape over the years. For example, HMS Caribbean, which had been requisitioned for service in the First World War, sank off the Cape during bad weather in 1915, with 15 dead. However, not all shipwrecks have been the result of stormy weather. HMS Bullen was torpedoed by a submarine in 1944, and the SS Manipur met a similar fate in 1940. It was in response to the shipwrecks occurring off this coast that a lighthouse was built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson.

The Cape is accessible to visitors only by means of a ferry across the Kyle of Durness followed by an 11-mile journey by minibus. Visitors can find refreshment at the most remote cafe in Britain, the Ozone Cafe. One thing to bear in mind is that the area around the Cape includes a military firing range, using a small island visible from the Cape as target practice, and these areas are closed to the public at certain times. Besides its geographical position, another claim to fame for the Cape is that the cliffs above the Bay of Kearvaig to the east of the lighthouse are the highest sea cliffs in mainland Britain. For the nature enthusiasts, a rich variety of birdlife and flora are present on the Cape, the former including the iconic Golden Eagle, while the plants to be found include Mountain Avens and Purple Saxifrage.

Map of the area.




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