John o' Groats harbour
C Caithness is the area in the far north west of Scotland and is on the North Coast 500 road route. The countryside varies with vast areas of land covered in bog and heather that is a rich natural environment. The coastal areas offer some of the most scenic and spectacular in Scotland along with beautiful sandy beaches. Ancient castles, brochs and standing stones can be explored throughout Caithness and are testament to a long history for this county.
There are 2 vehicular and a pedestrian only ferry to Orkney from Scrabster, Gills Bay and John O’ Groats. The two towns in Caithness, Wick and Thurso have interesting histories and are well worth visiting. The Castle of Mey and the walled garden is open to the public during the main tourism season and is highly recommended for a visit.
View along Reiss beach towards Keiss, which is at the far end of the beach. This beach is ideal for walking dogs or just enjoying the wide open spaces provided by this North Coast area of Caithness. The nearby Keiss Castle is wonderfully photographic and involves a short walk (and a bit of a scramble as there is no path) along the coastline from the old fishing village of Keiss.
Wick Golf Course, which is a 9 hole course, borders the dunes that run along Reiss beach. The course is open to visitors so remember to bring your clubs if you enjoy the game.
Castle of Mey
Castle of Mey in the far north of Scotland on the North Coast 500 road route.
The Castle of Mey from the Rose Garden within the walled garden
The Caithness coastline is best seen from the sea and daily trips around the coastline are available to book from Wick and John O’ Groats. You can also explore the area by walking along many of the coastal paths available, many of the coastal paths are not marked on maps so be adventurous and follow paths that can be seen or break out your own path along the coast.
You will be welcome on most coastal areas as long as you are sensible and follow the Countryside Code for Scotland, and leave only footprints … and please remember to keep your dog(s) on the lead anywhere near livestock and wildlife.
Around the Caithness coastline you will sandy beaches, steep cliffs where birds nest and viewpoints that look over the Orkney Islands. If you are a nature lover then the Caithness coastal area provides many locations to bird watch, look for otters, and if lucky see dolphins and whales. Caithness also has birds of prey including buzzards, owls and kestrels.
Thurso is one of the two main towns in the county of Caithness and is close to the harbour and ferry port at Scrabster. The important salmon fishing river, the River Thurso runs through the town. The town has hotel, bed and breakfast and a caravan / camp site that provides holiday accommodation and during summer months it is advisable to book well in advance. Holiday cottages are available throughout Caithness with a few near Thurso.
Thurso is known for its fabulous surfing off the beach and harbour area and also nearby at Brims Ness. The town has a cinema and swimming pool. The local college is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. The town has a sandy beach which can be accessed by steps from the car park at the small harbour / jetty. Thurso has a good range of shops within the town centre as well as a Tesco and Co-op stores.
Photograph of otter on the beach at Thurso.
Coastal view from the jetty at Thurso.
Interesting web pages on Thurso
The Lybster Harbour Visitor Centre is open to the public from May to September. The centre and café offers a Visit Scotland 4 star visitor attraction that allows you to explore the history of Lybster and Caithness, part of the exhibits have a small charge although you can see the outside herring and haddock smokie house for free. The café provides good value snacks and lunches.
Lybster is a small village on the far north east of Scotland and was once a very busy fishing port for the herring fishing industry, as were many other villages and towns around the coast. This industry has long gone yet the fishing heritage still persists at Lybster with small locally owned fishing boats being used for lobster and crab fishing around the Caithness coastline.
The harbour also offers moorings for leisure boats and visiting yachts and as you can see from the photograph the inner harbour provides good shelter from the sometimes wild north sea.