Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis - 1851
HELMSDALE, a fishing-village, in the parish of Loth, county of Sutherland, 17 miles (N. E.) from Golspie; containing 526 inhabitants. This village is situated on the north bank of the river Helmsdale, near its influx into the Moray Firth. The place consists chiefly of neatly-built houses inhabited by persons engaged in the fisheries, and is connected with the western portion of the parish by a handsome bridge of two arches, erected over the Helmsdale, at an expense of £3200, by the parliamentary commissioners, in 1811. It has long been celebrated for its valuable salmon-fisheries on the river, belonging to the Duke of Sutherland, and which are carefully managed under the superintendence of the proprietor's agents: the fish are of superior size and flavour, and are sent packed in ice to the London market, where they are purchased by contract. The herring fishery, in the Firth, is also very extensive: houses for curing the herrings have been built on a principle well adapted for the purpose; and since the year 1815, the quantity cured at this place has gradually increased from about 5000 to 46,000 barrels annually. The whole of the herrings are now exported to the continent and to Ireland. Helmsdale harbour was greatly improved by the erection of a substantial pier by the proprietor, at a cost of £1600, in 1818, since which time additional sums have been expended; and still further improvements are in contemplation. The fishery affords employment to a very considerable number of coopers, and a steam-mill has been erected for sawing the staves of the barrels; a few of the boats are built here, for the fishery, and various handicraft trades are carried on for the supply of the inhabitants. A post-office is established, which has a daily delivery; and facility of communication is afforded by the parliamentary road from Dunrobin, in the parish of Golspie, to the Ord of Caithness; by a good road from the village, through the strath of Kildonan, to the North Sea; and by vessels from different ports of England and Ireland, which touch at the harbour. A church, capable of containing from 600 to 700 persons, was built some years ago in the village by the late Duchess-Countess of Sutherland, aided by a subscription by the present duke. After the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, there was for some time no minister appointed to it, though preaching was held in it occasionally by ministers of the Establishment. Divine service is now regularly performed in the building, by a minister of the Established Church, appointed to the station in 1845 in conjunction with the incumbency of the neighbouring parish of Kildonan. The members of the Free Church have a large place of worship, opened in February 1845, and capable of containing upwards of 1000 persons. There are some remains of the ancient castle of Helmsdale, once a hunting-seat of the Sutherland family: it is apparently of the fourteenth century, and is memorable for the death of John, the eleventh Earl of Sutherland, and his countess, who were poisoned in 1567.