Site Records

Site Name: RAF Faraid Head ('RAI') CEW R10 ROTOR Radar Station

Faraid Head
Durness, Sutherland
OS Grid Ref: NC389714

Sub Brit site visit 10th June 2004

[Source: Nick Catford]

The final stage of the ROTOR Programme (Rotor 3) was to provide radar cover for the north and west of the British Isles which were still exposed to attack and to give low and surface level cover over the Atlantic, the absence of which prevented effective action against low flying enemy aircraft. Three new CEW stations were to be built at Faraid Head, Aird Uig, and Saxa Vord equipped with Type 80 Mk 2 and Type 13 radars. The new CEW operations buildings were to be above ground, heavily built and designated R10, similar in internal layout to the underground R1 bunkers.

Plan of RAF Faraid Head

Rotor 3 included five new Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) stations equipped with Stage 1 radar equipment to enable detection and tracking of low flying aircraft. (Stage 1 comprised Type 7 Early Warning [E/W] GCI , Type 14 E/W search radar E/W or Fighter Control [CEW station], Type 13 H/F and a Type 15 [mobile Type 7] - radars from this list were installed as required) The proposed stations were at Kilchiaran, Murlough Bay (demolished), Prestatyn, Snaefell and West Myne (not built). These were to be heavily built operations blocks, designated R11; the above ground version of an R2 bunker.

Two new GCI stations were also proposed as part of the Rotor 3 programme, each equipped with a Type 80 radar and R8 prefabricated operations block. One at Ballywooden (Killard Point) in Northern Ireland and the other at Wick on the Scottish east coast. It is unclear if Wick was ever built. The proposed location was Hill of Ulbster the site of a WW2 Chain Home Low reserve radar station.

It was hoped that The ROTOR 3 programme would be complete by 1957 and all technical aspects were classified as 'Super Priority'.

Photo:The site of the R10 operations block at Faraid Head, it was located behind the right hand building base in the foreground.
Photo by Nick Catford

PRO File Air 2/2062 is the 'Secret Works File' on RAF Faraid Head; this file was opened on 18.5.1953 and lists the various dispersed sites, equipment and cost of the station. The total cost, including all the sites was £250,000.

Authorised equipment for the station was one Type 1A radar (Type 80), one Type 13 Mk V1, one Type 14 Mk IX, six Type 64 consoles, two Type 61 consoles, one 'A' Scope, three video mapping units and one radio link in lieu of a GPO phone line. This linked to the VHF transmitter site at Mael A' Bhuic. It is unclear whether the Type 80 radar was ever installed although some of the bases for the steel gantry that straddled the building are visible.

By the target completion date of 1956 some ROTOR stations had already closed down and the introduction of the 'Comprehensive Radar Station' as part of the '1958' plan had no place for Faraid Head. The equipment was dismantled on 4th February 1957 and the station was placed on care and maintenance on 27th August 1957. All remaining equipment and personnel were withdrawn from 1st September 1958 and the site was abandoned.

The head remained in MOD hand however and the Type 80 modulator building was renovated for use as a range control tower for the Cape Wrath and Garvie Island naval ranges. It still performs this function today.

Most of the buildings on the technical site have now been demolished. They were located on a small plateau to the south and below the modulator building on the head. The position of each building on the site is clearly defined as the concrete bases can still be seen. One small building survives.

Photo:The Type 80 modulator building now converted for use as the range control tower. The building in the background is new and contains the sub station for the range control building. Note the heli-pad to the left.
Photo by Nick Catford

Internally the modulator building has been completely refitted with kitchen, dormitory, radio room, crew room and a ladder up into the new control tower built on the roof.

Faraid Head is located two miles to the north of Balnakeil village. There is a metaled road but much of it is impassable without a four wheel drive vehicle as sand from the surrounding dunes has blown across it, in places up to a foot thick. The first half mile involves driving along Balnakeil Beach. Much of the area is free public access but the head itself, including the modulator building and the technical site, is fenced with limited public access when the ranges are not in use.

For more information about the Faraid Head Rotor Radar Station click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 15th June 2004

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