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Parish of Kildonan and Loth, Helmsdale
Helmsdale is situated beside the main A9 roadway, overlooking the Moray Firth and is on the NC500 tourist route. The population is about 700, the population of the whole parish around 1100 with some of the residents choosing to retire to this part of Scotland from the south. Therefore the population is mostly an aging one. The parish of Loth extends southwards about 9 miles, and the parish of Kildonan extends northwards, embracing Kildonan, Borrobal, Kinbrace, Achentoul and Badanloch (36 miles in total).
Helmsdale has an excellent road and railway network to all parts of Scotland and the South, a recent development being the North Coast 500 route, a Visit Scotland initiative to encourage visitors to take a road trip around the east and west Highlands and the Far North which has proved to be popular in recent years.
Today Helmsdale is a quiet village in the winter months, with its once impressive fishing industry reduced to a few crab and lobster boats. In the summer months however, the village changes into an often bustling community with cyclists, coach tours and visitors from far and wide, on their way to Orkney, John O’Groats, and various other attractions in the area. One of the main attractions to Helmsdale has to be the famous Helmsdale river, one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Scotland.
There are three small hotels, various b & b’s, gift shops, tea room and restaurants, catering for residents near and far, also for the visitors who appreciate the fish & chips!
The culture and history of the area are of particular attraction to descendents of the Highland Clearances and Timespan, the local Heritage and Arts centre provides a comprehensive history of the Clearances with access to local and online research. Timespan also hosts visiting artists and craftspeople and is a centre for various activities throughout the year.
Helmsdale has a 9 hole golf course and fishing and tennis are easily accessed, tennis courts are situated at the rear of the Community Centre which also hosts many local associations including the library, a Men’s Shed, the Scottish Women’s Institute, the Helmsdale Hub and sometimes fitness and art classes. Helmsdale has a lot of community spirit, coming together to enjoy community events such as Harbour Day (RNLI), the Flower Show, and the Highland Games. Everyone is friendly and supportive of each other.
Helmsdale Primary School is located in the village and has close links with both the Church of Scotland and the Free Church.
Secondary pupils travel daily by bus to Golspie High School which is 16 miles away.
The Health Centre is located within the village, providing medical, dental and chiropody services, together with the services of the Practice Nurse.
The Lawson Memorial Hospital is located in Golspie (16 miles away) for all physio,
Caithness General Hospital is located in Wick (37 miles away) and Raigmore Hospital providing all general medical services is in Inverness (78 miles away).
The Church Building
The church has had extensive improvement work done in the past comprising a hall, vestry, kitchen and toilet, the latter two being ready for an update. Extra resources include a photocopier, digital projector, radio mike system and a laptop computer. Music is provided via an Ipod, linked to the sound amplifier and loop system.
An anteroom is used as a workroom by the knitting group who meet on Tuesday afternoons. This room can also be used for Sunday School.
There is electric heating and double glazing throughout.
The Kirk Session comprises the Interim Moderator and four elders.
Communion Services are held on:
1st Sunday in April, 1st Sunday in July, 1st Sunday October. Plus one other informal Communion e.g. Good Friday Joint service with Clyne.
Life of the Church
There are 20 church members and 10 adherents. The congregation is made up of mostly elderly people. There has been a Bible Study Group and a Prayer Meeting each Wednesday afternoon which has been suspended for the time being, and there has been a singing group in the past, this also has been suspended.
Sunday Services are at 12 noon. It would be our wish to start the Sunday evening Praise service at 6.30pm in the summer months. Our Church plays an active part in the Church of Scotland, Crossreach Home in Dornoch, Oversteps.
Two of our elders are currently on the "Friends of Oversteps" group. The group are raising money to help towards the garden in Oversteps, which needs a lot of attention.
The Elders representing Bunillidh Church also take their turn on "Trolley Duty," delivering Birthday cards and a monthly visit to the residents.
This is a very rewarding task, and much appreciated by the residents and staff.
Bunillidh Church has a good relationship with the local Free Church, we support each other at various events throughout the year, including the Free Church Holiday club in the Summer holidays
We support Blythswood Shoe Box Appeal, Highland Food Bank, Christian Aid, Tear Fund, Fishermans Mission and Scottish Bible Society etc.
Our Annual sponsored walk has raised thousands of pounds for the Scottish Bible Society.
2018 will be our 30th year, so we are hoping to plan something special for that year.
As a Church we are fortunate to get involved with the local Primary school, they come to our Church for Assemblies 2/3 times a year, weather permitting, this is always a wonderful time of Fellowship.
The Knitting Group meet weekly, and have various project over the year, including a "Prayer Shawl Ministry, we have given a number of Prayer Shawls to people in need of comfort.
Although small in numbers, we are BIG in heart, and regularly hold Fund raising activities both for Christian charities and for our own Church.