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Dunnet Head Lighthouse





Canisbay Church







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Dunbeath Castle







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Castle of Mey







Handa Island







Keiss Castle







Tour Caithness, Tour Sutherland

The northern coast offers a rich variety of scenery, from tall storm swept cliffs to gentle sandy bays. The interior offers equally dramatic contrasts between low lying windswept bogs and dramatic mountain peaks. Fishing boats shelter in the area's many harbours. Numerous nature reserves protect the moorland's rich plant and animal life, with sea birds to the fore.

Armadale
Hamlet of crofters' cottages heated in winter by peat fires. Set in Armadale Bay with fine view of sandy beach and sweep of shallow water. Main road leads over two burns, Allt Beag and Armadale, both with twin stone bridges, old and new.

Auckengill
John Nicholson, 19th century antiquarian, extensively studied this region's ancient remains. Old school house opposite his home is now a museum of region's early human history, called Northlands Viking Centre, a useful starting point for visiting brochs and other area sites.

Balnakeil
Old Ministry of Defence early warning station is setting for Balnakeil Craft Village; visitors can watch various crafts, ranging from weaving to jewellery and candle-making. The ruined Balnakeil Church of 1619 has monument to Celtic bard Rob Donn. Balnakeil Beach.

Bettyhill
Crofting centre and resort above Torrisdale Bay. To north is Farr Bay, where precious stones can be found. Salmon fishing in River Naver and trout in Loch Naver, 15 miles inland. Bettyhil Church dating from 18th century houses Strathnaver Museum of local history. Outside museum is Farr Stone, an early Christian Celtic stone.

Canisbay
Canisbay lies on the Pentland Firth, 2 miles west of John o' Groats. The medieval St Drostan's Church with its saddle-back west tower has in its porch a tombstone commemorating members of the Dutch Grot or Groat family which settled in Caithness in the late 15th Century and whose descendants operated a ferry to Orkney. John Groat, who held a pennyland in nearby Duncansby from the Earl of Caithness, gave his name to John o' Groats. When residing in nearby Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother attended services at Canisbay Church.

Cape Wrath
Cape Wrath is red-rock headland rising 360ft from sea, topped by 7Oft lighthouse. The Parbh, 100 square miles of peat-bog, heather, scrub and rock, lies inland. Only link to cape from outside world is ferry across Kyle of Durness. Cleit Dhubh, or Black Cliff, rises 850ft from sea south east of the cape.

Castletown
Well ordered village built for men working in nearby quarries. Castletown's stone has paved the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh; stone was sent out from neighbouring harbour of Castlehill, also built of this stone.

Dounreay
Experimental nuclear power station's 135ft steel dome dominates flat coastal area. It was world's first fast reactor to provide power for public use. Dounreay Exhibition tells story of nuclear power and has guided tours.

Dunbeath
Harbour is home to small fishing fleet. Dunbeath Castle still lived in but closed to public. Laidhay Caithness Croft Museum displays typical 18th century complex with house, byre and stable all under one roof. Old village school houses Dunbeath Heritage Centre.

Duncansby Head
The far north eastern tip of Scottish mainland where the Duncansby Head Lighthouse stands high above entrance to Pentland Firth. Photos of Duncansby Head and Stacks.

Dunnet Head
Most northerly point of British mainland. Viewing platform provides 3600 view over 300ft cliffs, taking in Cape Wrath and Duncansby. Dunnet Head Lighthouse stands below viewpoint, its walls battered by stones thrown up by Pentland Firth in rough weather.

Dunrobin Castle
The fairy-tale like Dunrobin Castle faces the North Sea a mile or so north of Golspie in Sutherland. The Sutherland family can trace their ancestry back to Freskin of Moravia, and one of his descendants, Hugh, migrated to Sutherland in the days of William the Lion, with the 1st Earl of Sutherland being created in 1235.

Durness
Durness is a crofting village spread out along coast. Along the shore is three chambered Smoo Cave. Its main chamber, over 200ft deep and 110ft wide, is accessible by foot. Allt Smoo burn flows from moorland and drops 80ft into deep pool inside second cavern. Durness Golf Club. Durness Stone Craft.

Grey Cairns of Camster
Well preserved burial chambers 2 miles north of Camster date from Stone Age, beginning 6,000 years ago. Visitors can crawl down passage into chambers. Long cairn is nearly 200ft. Legless skeletons found in round cairn.

Halkirk
Halkirk Village based on local quarries that mined stone for street paving. Fossil Centre at Mybster has displays on local flagstone industry. Halkirk Highland Games.

Handa Island
Handa Island Nature Reserve
. Steep cliffs on three sides of island packed with sea birds in summer. Moorland interior is also home to variety of birds, from skuas to golden plovers. The departure point for Handa Island is at Tarbert, 6 miles north of Scourie.

Harrow
Area's best known building is Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother's past summer residence. Castle Arms Hotel, Mey, has royal photographs display. Quarries shipped flagstones from harbour a century ago.

Hill o' Many Stanes
Bronze Age stone formation on hillock. Rows of small stones form a fan like formation possibly for astronomical purposes.

Invernaver
Nature reserve with notable dwarf shrubs. Skelpick long barrow is 200ft long with two burial chambers blocked by massive capstones. Remains of Iron Age settlement with tower stand on rocky slope.

John O' Groats
Claims to be mainland Britain's most northerly village, named after founder of ferry service to Orkney in 1496, Jan de Groot. Water mill established 1750 operates under original family. Ferry service between John O' Groats and Orkney. Businesses.

Keiss
Keiss harbour is an important crab and lobster centre. Keiss Castle, 16th century, stands near private 18th century castle. 3 mile stretch of sand on Sinclair's Bay lies south.

Kinlochbervie
Area's busiest fishing port has double harbour. Nearby Blairmore starts trail to Sandwood Bay. Kinlochbervie Local History.

Kylestrome
Village at meeting point of three lochs, Kylesku is across water. Boat trip up Loch Glencoul gives views of Britain's highest waterfall, 650ft Eas a Chual Aluinn.

Lybster
Active fishing community; broad street runs down to harbour with octagonal lighthouse at its entrance. Church has finely carved Celtic cross.

Noss Head
Rocky point north of Wick is crowned by two ruins. Castle Girnigoe, 15th century, has keep on cliff edge. Castle Sinclair dates from 17th century. Noss Head Lighthouse is located three miles outside the town of Wick

Sandside Bay
Broad bay, with harbour of Fresgue to one side and village of Reay sheltering behind dunes. Small whitewashed church of 1740 has gallery for laird and family. Sandside Harbour and associated fishing store and cottages were built in 1830 by Major William Innes of Sandside. There are a number of Pictish stones in the area and Sandside house dates from 1751.

Sandwood Bay
Pink, pale sand and grassy dunes, usually deserted except for sea birds and, legend has it, mermaids. Beach lies 4 miles north of Blairmore, accessible by rough track. Swimming not advised. John Muir Trust Sandwood Estate.

Scourie
Scourie lies on the west coast of Sutherland district in Highland Council Area, at the head of Scourie Bay, 5 miles west of Laxford Bridge. The village is famed for the palm trees that grow in the garden of Scourie House, a consequence of the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. The village is a popular centre for walkers and anglers, whilst trips to the nearby island of Handa and the nature reserve there are popular summer excursions.

Scrabster
Begun as port for loading flagstones, town is now main ferry port for Orkney. Path leads up past lighthouse to cliffs of Holborn Head. Sailing club, sea angling and other activities. Scrabster Harbour Trust. Scrabster Ferries.

Skirza
Iron Age broch stands on a spur thrusting out from cliffs. Its hollow walls are 14ft thick and enclose an interior 22ft across.

Thurso
Britain's most northerly mainland town was laid out as Georgian new town by Sir John Sinclair. Ruined Church of St Peter dates back to 13th century. Thurso Castle, largely rebuilt, dates from 17th century. Thurso Heritage museum. Thurso Pipe Band.

Tongue
Tongue Village has gabled church, built 1680. Its boxed wooden gallery was once used by Mackay clan. Angling in Loch Loyal, 4 miles south. Ruined 14th-century Cais-teal Bharraich, built on Viking lookout spot.

Wick
Ancient settlement, Vikings once sheltered here. Name comes from Norse Vik, 'bay'. Town plan is medieval, but buildings are mostly 18th century. Visitors can watch handmade glass being blown at Caithness Glass. Also visit the Wick Heritage Centre.

If you would like to tour Sutherland or Caithness as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

Tour Sutherland, Tour Caithness Links:
Sutherland Property Search.
A Writer's View Of Sutherland.
Fishing in The Highlands of Scotland.

History of Caithness.
Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654.
Images of Caithness.

Clan Gunn Sites in Caithness and Sutherland.
Reay Golf Club.

Highland Golf Clubs.
Bratach Home of the North West Highlands.
A Brief History of Clan Sutherland.
A Short History of Clan Sutherland.
Earls and Dukes of Sutherland.
Dunrobin Castle.
The Highland Council Archive.
Scottish Archives.
The Scottish Genealogy Society.
Scottish Census Information.
Scottish Documents Index of over 300,000 names in Scottish wills from 1500-1875.
Scottish Church Records.
Old Sutherland.
Old Dornoch.
Highland Hostels.
Old Wick.
Hugh Mackay of Scourie.
William Young Sellar of Morvich.
Sir John Sinclair of Thurso.
John 0' Groats House.
The Groat Gazette.
George Granville Leveson-Gower.
1st Duke of Sutherland Monument.
Highland Stoneware Ltd, Lochinver, Sutherland.
North West Sutherland artists and writers.
Milford Map Of Sutherland.
North West Sutherland Local Services.
Historical Maps Of Sutherland.
Sutherland Surnames List.
North West Sutherland Bird Life.
Sutherland Heritage.
North West Sutherland Churches.

Scottish Natural Heritage.
North West Sutherland Learning.
North West Sutherland Community Groups.
North Sutherland Country Ranger.
Assynt Country Ranger.
North West Sutherland Events.
North West Sutherland Geology.
The Highland Family History Society.
Caithness Family History Society.

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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