Brora Salt Pans
Coal was discovered in Brora in 1529, and in 1598 Brora coal was used to heat sea water to extract salt at a site along the back shore near Lower Brora. The salt proved to be a commercial success serving the herring fleets for preserving their fish. For a period of time the salt was known locally as 'white gold'. Salt making ended in 1616 and the salt pans were sold. Around 1767 salt production began again using the poorest quality Brora coal which couldn't be sold to try to generate a little extra income. It seemed a good arrangement but it was short lived and the coal and salt industries were closed down. In 1798 the Marquis of Stafford again tried to revive both the coal and salt industries and constructed a short railway between the salt pans and the harbour. The railway ran along what is still called Salt Street in Lower Brora. When the salt tax was abolished in 1823, salt production became uneconomical, and as coal was facing overwhelming competition from peat, both industries were again closed.
Excavations revealed the 'old' and the 'new' salt works dating from 1598-1617 and around 1767-1777 respectively, and the site was shown to consist of two buildings and a large midden. One of the buildings was referred to by the excavation teams as the Saltman's House. These two 16th Century buildings were later identified as probably the pan house, where salt water was boiled in large iron pans on coal fired hearths, and what was most likely offices and a storehouse.
The salt pans have almost been completely destroyed now by coastal erosion, but you can still visit the site. This is all that now remains.
Here are a few photos I took during the excavations.
Below you can see the salt pans marked on the map and the car park which has easy access to the back shore. The site of the salt pans is just a few hundred yards along the shore.