Welcome to the Scottish Highlands. North of Inverness you will discover Caithness and Sutherland, two counties that covers an area from the east coast to the west of Highland Scotland. At the far top right corner of the Scottish Highlands is the county of Caithness, an ancient land lived in by the Picts and invaded by the Vikings. Explore the far north of Scotland in pictures and maps and plan your next visit to Scotland and the Highlands of Scotland.
When you visit Caithness and Sutherland you will discover stunning scenery making this area a perfect place for holidays for all the family. As the countryside and landscape varies from high rugged and remote mountain ranges and wild places, to crofting and farming communities and fishing towns and villages. The area has a fascinating range of old castles, remnants of pictish settlements, standing stones, and brochs along with the more recent effects of the clearances with abandoned villages and houses now long empty.
Caithness and Sutherland has enough to keep most adventurers busy for several weeks and for people lucky to live in this area of Scotland the ever changing seasons and weather offer a new perspective on the area with every movement of the clouds and ray of sunshine. It is indeed a magical area and we you are very welcome you to visit the area and enjoy the beautiful scenery, historic buildings and some of the loveliest beaches in Britain.
Dunnet Head is Scotland most northerly point with views over to the Orkney Islands, you will not be disappointed with the outstanding scenery. You drive past the most northerly village of Brough on your way to Dunnet Head.
The RSPB Dunnet Head site is an important nature reserve for coastal birds including puffins, Guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars. In spring and early summer you can see observe the birds nesting and raising their young. Watch out for whales or take a nature walk during the summer months.
Scrabster harbour and ferry port is an important part of Caithness with the ferry connecting Orkney to Caithness, while the harbour supports the fishing, offshore oil, gas and wind power industries.
One of Scotland's best loved castles is the Castle of Mey, purchased by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1952, who restored the castle and developed the walled gardens. It is now open to the public during spring and summer months. You can now stay within the castle grounds in the newly opened The Granary Lodge B&B where you can experience luxury while on the North Coast 500 route around the north of Scotland.
John o' Groats is an iconic destination for people undertaking the NC 500 route around Highlands of Scotland as well as being the start / end point for many sponsored events raising money for charity. At John O’ Groats you can shop or enjoy a relaxing meal or quick snack at the cafés and hotel, watch out for passing killer whales, or take a day trip on the John O’ Groats ferry to Orkney.
Mary Ann’s cottage lies near Dunnet within sight of Dwarwick pier that is at the end of the single track road coming from Dunnet. This old traditional croft was lived in by Mary-Ann Calder up until 1990 when she moved into a residential home. She had lived and worked the croft with her husband most of her life. Since this time the croft has been looked after by a Heritage Trust and volunteers now provide a guided tour of the croft when the building is open to visitors during the summer. The building and contents have been preserved to show how the building was lived in, and the croft worked, until relatively recently. Pictures and location map for Mary-Ann's Cottage.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. is located about 3 miles north of Wick on the east coast of Caithness, Scotland. It is considered to be one of the earliest seats of Clan Sinclair. It comprises the ruins of two castles - the 15th-century Castle Girnigoe and the early 17th-century Castle Sinclair. Pictures, location map and more on the Castle.
Camster Cairns is a site of the Grey Cairns of Camster and the Round Cairn. The structures on this site are around 5,000 years old. The long cairns - known as the Grey Cairns of Camster were recreated in the 1980's, previously they were seen only as mounds in the moorland landscape.
Nybster broch settlement is very close to John O' Groats and is near the Caithness Broch Visitor Centre. The broch dates back over 2500 years and is a short walk along the coastal path from the car park at Nybster.
The communities that formed around the fertile lands of Yarrow go back to before the Stone Age with people settling and living in the land now known as Caithness. Today you can see one of the most important archaeological remains of these early settlements with 2000-2500 year old brochs, earlier burial cairns and other remnants of their life on the land around Yarrows.
Whaligoe Steps are 7 miles south of the town of Wick in Caithness. The number of steps has changed over the years with around 330 remaining down to the Bink and harbour area at Whaligoe where you can see the old Salt Store. These are the steps and the journey taken by hundreds of men and women who worked in the fishing industry that started over 200 years ago. Take an hour or more to explore this wonderful historic location. Stop off at the Whaligoe Cafe for a snack or a meal and watch out for passing Killer Whales.
Caithness has a rich natural environment, the the Flow Country being one of Scotland's largest peat bog areas and important for carbon capture. This area is now being conserved to encourage birds, insects and native plants as well as restoring areas of the peat bog that had been planted with non-native trees for forestry purposes. The Forsinard Flows is a RSPB Nature Reserve covering over 21,000 hectares. There is a RSPB visitor and information centre at Forsinard.
The coastal area has cliffs and stacks that are perfect for nesting sea birds such as puffins, and in the sea you can often find seals with several seal colonies along the coastline. Otters are fairly common in Caithness and are a delight to watch. Occasionally we get visitors from warmer and colder climates and in 2018 we were all amazed to see a large walrus that was nicknamed "Wally". Whales and dolphins can sometimes be seen passing through the Pentland Firth and around the Caithness coastline.
Wick is one of two towns in the county of Caithness in the far north of Scotland. For hundreds of years Wick has been involved in the fishing industry, booming in the 1800's with thousands of people working in the herring fishing. Now with a modern harbour and marina, an airport, train station, Shops, Schools, library and swimming pool the town supports the local rural community as well as the important offshore industries, including the wind farms in the North Sea. John o' Groats is 17 miles to the north.
It is worth taking time to explore Wick and the small coastal villages, castles, golf course and glorious sandy beaches (Reiss) near the town.
Laidhay is a 200 year old thatched Caithness longhouse that was restored in the early 1970's and opened to the public. There is a large amount of social history displayed at the Laidhay Croft Museum and is well worth stopping off and visiting the croft to see how people lived in the 1800 to early 1900's. Open April to September.
St John's Loch is one of best brown trout lochs in Caithness with permits are available from the St John's Loch Improvement Association, fishing on the loch is by fly fishing.
There is also a nature reserve at the loch called St John's Pool where you can watch a wide range of coastal and inland birds from the public hide. Bird watchers and anyone interested in nature and wildlife should visit this wonderful nature reserve. Entrance is free although donations are appreciated.
For enthusiasts and professional wildlife photographers there are a number of bird hides available to hire that are on the waters edge of the pool.
On the road to Dunnet Head you will pass mainland Scotland's most northerly village, Brough. You can go down to the slipway / harbour area and watch for seals and other wildlife around Little Clett, a rock stack, just off the shore.
Sarclet is a small coastal village around 8 miles south of Wick. The village was originally built, along with the harbour, to exploit the boom in the herring fishing industry and for many years was a busy fishing harbour. Today it is a small rural and crofting community. You can still see the remains of the old harbour buildings at Sarclet and enjoy the natural history around the area. Seals can often be seen swimming around Scarlet Haven.
Sandside is a small beach close to the village of Reay in Caithness. This beautiful sandy beach is often empty, except for a few local people walking their dogs, or exercising their horses. The beach area has free car parking and during the summer months the public toilet next to the beach is usually open. It is a great beach for walking and playing with dogs and bounds on the Reay Golf Course. Sandside Harbour has a lot of character about it and is still used by local fishermen.
The Hill O' Many Stanes (Stones) is near Mid Clyth just off the main A99 road to Wick when driving north. It is a heather and gorse covered field with 200 small upright stones, possibly built 4,000 years ago. A small car park for around 2 cars is next to this interesting historical site. Free to visit, it is open all year, a Historic Environment Scotland managed site.
Charter sailing ship Eye of the Wind at Scrabster.
Ship Havila Subsea berthed at Scrabster.
Ship Scot Trader being loaded with a cargo of timber at Scrabster Harbour.