HMS Sutherland on visit to namesake County

Sailors from HMS Sutherland hit the high north as they took the rare opportunity to visit their namesake county.

With the frigate taking a break from patrolling home waters in Faslane, the crew of the Fighting Clan hit the road to visit remote communities and historic naval sites peppered around one of the UK’s largest counties.

Sutherland stretches from the west coast of Scotland to the east – it’s more than four times the size of London – but with a population of about the size of Helensburgh and is served by a very spartan road network.

Such as a six-hour drive from Faslane to Loch Eriboll on Scotland’s north coast, where giant stones on the hillside celebrate the remote location’s one-time link with the Royal Navy.

Sutherland is a wonderful place to visit

Lt Cdr Blakeman RN

The inlet – just 15 miles from the north western tip of the mainland at Cape Wrath – was used as a natural harbour by the Royal Navy in World War 2.

To mark the association – and perhaps to pass the time at a remote site which they dubbed Loch 'orrible – sailors painted boulders on white and spelled out their ship’s name on the slope.

More recently, crew from Sutherland and assault ship HMS Bulwark added to the historic titles, joining great names such as Valiant, Swift, Blake and legendary battle-cruiser HMS Hood on the moorside.

Having visited the boulders, Executive Officer Lt Cdr Tom Knott and Weapon Engineer Officer Lt Cdr George Blakeman hit the road for the 90-minute drive to the equally barren loch at Kylesku.

The waters here were used by wartime midget submarines – X-craft – to practise navigating in confined spaces, men such as those who crippled Hitler’s flagship Tirpitz which was hiding in Norway’s fjords. Today, the exploits of 12th Submarine Flotilla are recorded on a memorial cairn.

Meanwhile on the east coast, a second group of sailors helped with community projects in the villages of Golspie and Brora.

The Fighting Clansmen repaired a play area in Golspie High School with pupils, cleared debris form the local pier and slipway, repaired fencing along the waterfront and conducted a litter pick-up along Brora beach.

It wasn’t all hard work, however, for the team met the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Dr Monica Main and were given a behind-the-scenes tour of stunning Dunrobin Castle, home of Lady Strathnaver, chief of the Clan Sutherland.

“Sutherland is a wonderful place to visit – from the rugged beauty of the Ben Hope and Ben Loyal and the pristine white sandy beaches near Durness to the charming towns of Dornoch and Golspie,” said Lt Cdr Blakeman.

 

“The people of the county have been very friendly and are proud of their association with our ship.  Those of us who were fortunate to spend time in the county were warmly received by everyone we met and it’s always enjoyable helping out the local communities.”