Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

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Brora Salt Pans (11940)

Current Priority
Site Type

Dark shale like midden material eroding out of base of dune with associated remain of mortared wall boulders lying in front of it on the shore. Boulders have since been spread down the shore by the sea. Previously noted & investigated by Clyne Heritage Society.

Condition and current recommendations:

Photographic Survey

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Record 238 on map 10 in East Sutherland Coastal Zone Assessment Survey, 2010

Other records:



1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

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8th December, 2014 by training1
Survey Information
Dec. 8, 2014
Tidal state:
Site located?:
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
coast edge
Coastally eroding?:
active sea erosion; has eroded in the past
Is there a coastal defence?:

The SCAPE Trust and the Clyne Heritage Society excavated this site in 2010.

Documentary evidence records that Lady Jane Gordon, Countess of Sutherland, established a salt pan here in 1598. In 1618, there is a reference to the iron of the pans being sold following the death of her son John the 12th Earl in 1616.

The site of the ‘Old Salt Works’ is marked on John Farey’s 1813 Mineral Map of the Coal Field at and near Brora. For some years quantities of burnt material has been eroding from the dune face in the immediate vicinity of Farey’s ‘Old Salt Works’ and the remains of a substantial wall formerly visible on the beach was recorded in 2006.

In 2010, the layers of burnt material eroding out of the coast edge were fully exposed and recorded. They were made up of a series of highly compacted layers of burnt fuel slag and ash to form hard surfaces interleaved with blown sand. The sequence attained a maximum thickness of 1.4m at its western limit and extended for over 20m as a continuous layer, thinning eastwards. The architecture of the deposits indicates deliberate spreads of material to form a surface linking the wall (now gone) recorded in 2006 on the beach with the storehouse and office higher up the dune, recorded in 2010/11 (Site 11942). The massive quantities of fuel slag in proximity to the wall on the beach, relative to the thin spreads in the vicinity of the building to the east suggests the material originates from activity carried out within the building on the beach.

This evidence, together with the lack of evidence of structures or materials associated with the process of salt panning within the building of site 11942 indicates the building on the beach is most likely to have been the pan house, with the building of site 11942 functioning as a storehouse and office.

Continued monitoring of this stretch of eroding coastline is likely to reveal further archaeological deposits.

Management Information
How visible are the remains? (above ground):
not visible
How visible are the remains? (in section):
limited visibility in section
How accessibile is the site?:
easily accessible- no restrictions
The site is:
is well known; has local associations/history
Comments and recommendations

DSR reports are available for all the Brora Salt Pans excavations. Publication is intended.


Regular monitoring. Priority 2.