Cafe & Gardens

Timespan is not only a wonderful museum and art centre, it is also an important local meeting place and hub of Helmsdale activity. This combination ensures a lively and sociable atmosphere with a warm welcome extended to everyone.

The River Café

Timespan’s River Café draws people back again and again. Overlooking the community garden tucked under the Telford Bridge and next to the River Helmsdale, there really is no prettier place to while away the time.

Where possible, our ingredients are sourced locally, and the herbs are from the garden.  Our cheeses on our cheese platter come from Highland Cheeses in Tain, eggs are supplied by Clythe’s Cracking Eggs, Smoked Mackerel, Smoked Salmon and Crab are from Sandy Cowie, Helmsdale.

Another reason for frequent returns is the opportunity to linger over delicious cream teas, mouthwatering cakes and the best fresh coffee served anywhere in Sutherland.  Light lunches are also available and there is FREE WIFI for your online needs.

In the Café you can see work on display from creative practitioners who are members of Artlands North, an interactive map of artist’s studios, galleries and public artworks located North of the Caledonian canal. You can access the Artlands North microsite via the iPad in the Cafe or on any device with an internet connection There is also an excellent collection of second hand books available for sale.

Providing we have notice, the café can and  will happily accommodate groups of visitors to Timespan or cater for your special requirements.

taste the best web size

The Herb Garden

When Timespan Heritage Centre was conceived, the original building comprised a shop, petrol station and coal yard in disrepair.

It is this coal yard, once a flat wasteland with a rough bank, brick wall and rubble that was transformed by John Hope RIBA, ARAIS into a terraced garden in this fine sheltered spot on the banks of the River Helmsdale.

The makeover took a year with a Manpower Services team of nine local men under the guidance of foreman Graham Cameron.  The team tackled the terracing, paths, stonework, burns and ponds, carting in loads of earth and constructing a peat bank.

Planting began in 1987 under the care of Mary Dudgeon MBE, the first Chairperson of Timespan, whose own garden at Crakaig is famous within the county.   Timespan’s community garden is now an oasis of beauty and calm.  Its exceptional location: nestling next to the Telford Bridge and overlooking the River Helmsdale, is second to none.

Over the years,  herbs from all over Scotland have been introduced into the Timespan garden which now has more varieties than anywhere else in the country.    To this herb collection has been added many more indigenous plants so the garden now has a unique set of Scottish native flora.  The garden is also a rewarding point from which to view birds and wildlife. Otters are frequently seen below the Telford Bridge.

Timespan has developed a Geology Garden with full interpretation, which beautifully complements the existing design and makes it easier to understand the natural relationship between the local geology, wildlife and plant life.

A Garden of Herbs book coverA GARDEN OF HERBS by Agnes Walker, a botanist at Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, was inspired by the author’s first visit to Timespan.  It is available in the Timespan shop.
(Argyll Press £8.99)



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Geology Garden

First conceived in 2005, the garden was the first stage in the refurbishment and development of Timespan into its present form.

The collection of large rock specimens are representative of the many different types found in the Counties of Sutherland and Caithness. Each rock has a Caithness stone plaque giving its name and age. The rocks include Lewisian Gneiss, Red Granite, Jurassic Sandstone and Fossil Coral. The garden is bounded by a low dry-stone dyke of local stone.

The geology garden incorporates a tranquil seating area with a glass balustrade to allow uninterrupted views across the river. Visitors have seen otters, seals and many different types of birds while having a bite to eat. A geology timeline can be viewed from the seating area. The visitor can enjoy the breathtaking scene of the old Telford stone bridge with its arches leading the eye into the beautiful Strath of Kildonan. A modern flagstone and glass art installation is a sympathetic contrast to the older rocks in the garden.

Younger visitors can learn more about the geology of the area by filling in an activity sheet.

Timespan’s Geology Garden – The perfect place for a cup of coffee!