Daily Archives: November 27, 2010

Some Early Lines – The Dornoch Light Railway


I spent a couple of very happy holidays in Dornoch in the early 1970s, before I was as interested in railways as I am now.  In those days it was more golf, and on those holidays I played Royal Dornoch, Golspie and Brora quite a few times, and, if I remember correctly, there was a small 9-hole course at Bonar Bridge. Lovely places with lovely people, but the pubs closed at 10.00 pm in those days and it was still daylight when you came out!

Dornoch Light Railway

Dornoch Light Railway is an historic railway in Scotland that ran from The Mound on the Sutherland Railway to the county town of Sutherland, Dornoch. This railway is closed.This Railway was one of two railways in the North of Scotland built under the 1896 Light Railway Act (the other being the Wick & Lybster Railway) this allowed the line to built to lower standards to save cost.

The RouteFrom the top ‘x’ at the Mound, past the other two, and on to the ‘A’ – Dornoch.

Traces of the railway line at Skelbo. The dark green line through this field is the path of the railway.Photo: John Haslam

The Railway started at a south-facing junction with the Sutherland Railway at The Mound station, departing trains turning right on a sharply falling gradient. Immediately bridging the River Fleet by a four-span viaduct the gradient brought trains to the Mound itself, actually a causeway built across the River Fleet by Thomas Telford in 1816 as part of road development in the region. Sharing the Mound with the road, the Railway crossed it at the Southern end of the causeway at a gated crossing, the first of several. The Railway then turned South-East to skirt the Southern shore of Loch Fleet coming to its first stop at Cambusavie Halt.

Throughout its existence the pace of services on the line was slow, accentuated by the need for the train to stop for the gated crossings, the guard to dismount and open the gates, the train to proceed through and stop to pick up the guard having closed the gates again. The next station was Skelbo, equipped with a goods siding, whereupon the line bore inland slightly and turned South, climbing to the fishing village of Embo, where the station was furnished with a building and a goods yard.

Following the coast of the Moray Firth on its last leg, the line passed the Royal Dornoch Golf Club before crossing the road and terminating in Dornoch  By the station was the engine shed – the line always operated on the ‘one engine in steam’ principle – and a goods shed. The terminus was overlooked by Dornoch Cathedral.