Smoo Cave

"Smoo Cave" - watercolour - 18 x 26 cm

Smoo Cave, at Durness in the far North-west of Sutherland, is one the the main tourist attractions of the area. The cave was formed by the action of water dissolving the limestone rocks, leaving a series of chambers and underground waterfalls. Visitors can take a boat trip into the depths of the cavern.

Humans have been drawn to the cave from the earliest times: A midden in the entrance has been excavated and shows evidence of occupation from the Mesolithic Period through to the Iron Age. Other deposits indicate use of the cave in the Norse period. I'm sure it has continued to provide a shelter or hide-out at later times and has probably been used as a store more recently.

As well as the main cave, there are several smaller caves which may at one time have been part of one large cave system. There may still be other caves and passages, as yet undiscovered underground.


  1. Good morning Keith!... an interesting and very different subject for you. The challenge of the very shallow depth of field is superbly met through your use of that dark ... yet warm cave entrance.

    Humankind has always had to feel that they "had a roof over the head" to feel safe... and within these caves, as you have alluded, lie the very tracks and traces of human history.

    A great tour! Thank you!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, you've rightly identified the challenge with this painting. The lines of rock strata helped a lot with the perspective. It was an interesting reversal of the usual case of darker values being in the foreground.

      All the best,

  2. Lovely painting. I really like all the parallel areas of colour; they tie the image together while giving it a great sense of depth. It reminds me a little of a cave my son and I saw on our last hike (April/Victoria). Not sure if I can post a photo here, otherwise, you can see it on my website: (scroll down to Day 11).

    1. Thanks Diane, those bands of rock were certainly very useful.

      That part of the coastline seems very similar, in some ways, to northern Sutherland. It even has the wind farms that are appearing all over the place.

  3. Oh yes, very different for you and I can appreciate the challenge of having no 'distance' to work with, and no sky. As you've said, the layers of rock have helped with the perspective but I think the foreshortening river and the people on the path are worth their weight in gold in providing some sense of distance and scale. A superb painting and, as we've come to expect, a very interesting post.

    1. Thanks John. Strangely, I hadn't thought of this being so different when I painted it, but I suppose when you compare it with my usual open landscapes, it is. I could find similar sea caves and rock formations much closer to home, so I might think about painting some of those for a change.


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