Caithness Tour Itinerary Day Four

Category: Tour Itinerary
Tags:##Caithness##North Coast 500##Scotland##North of Scotland##Thurso##Thurso River##Dunnet Beach##North Coast Visitor Centre##Scrabster
Written By

Peter Macrae

Caithness Tour – Day Four

Hopefully we’ve convinced you by now that Caithness has lots to offer visitors. Today’s section of the North Coast 500 (NC 500) provides something for fans of the Royal Family, another incredible beach and time to spend in the most northerly town on the mainland, Thurso.

Once again, for more information on the sites mentioned here, go to our Adventure Map on this website.

Island of Stroma

As you head west out of John O’Groats, look out to sea and there’s the island of Stroma.

Stroma Sunset
Sunset over Stroma. Thanks to Ivor Thomas for the photo

It’s part of Caithness and was inhabited until the early 1960’s. Stroma stands in the path of many of the Pentland Firth’s strong tides making the sea conditions around the island treacherous.

The Royal Family connection begins…

Continuing west from John O’Groats you pass through the village of Canisbay. There’s a small white church by the roadside, where you can find many fine burials carved by our favourite antiquarian, John Nicolson. This is where the Queen Mother would worship when she stayed each summer at her beloved Castle of Mey.

When on holiday in Caithness the Queen Mother would worship at Cannisbay Church

Scotland’s Haven

Shortly before you arrive in the Village of Mey and just a little way off the main road is Scotland’s Haven - a spectacular tidal pool. Access is a little difficult but it offers a sheltered sandy beach perfect for paddleboarders and young swimmers. Check the Adventure Map for more details.

The Castle of Mey

This was one of the Queen Mother’s personal homes for over forty years. She bought it while on holiday in Caithness soon after the death of her husband, King George VI. She would come here every summer and October often joined by other members of the Royal Family.

It’s now the responsibility of the Castle of Mey Trust but it’s status as a private Royal residence remains as Prince Charles stays there occasionally. The Castle and grounds are open to the public.

Ham Chambered Cairn

Erm, aren't we forgetting something? Oh yes, ARCHAEOLOGY!

As you head west towards Dunnet turn right off the North Coast 500 route (A836) and follow signs for Ham. Pull in by the side of the road when you reach the farm. You might be able to see the cairn on the clifftop on the opposite side of the field. It's a well-preserved example of a chambered cairn which you can climb inside.

Dunnet Beach

Continuing to head towards Thurso you come to the village of Dunnet and the sweeping expanse of Dunnet Bay, a haven for surfers and a beautiful shallow bay for wandering or swimming.

Dunnet Beach
The wonderful expanse of Dunnet Beach

Enjoy a stroll and some sea air as you look towards Orkney - it doesn’t come much fresher than this, especially with a characteristic Caithness breeze as this kite surfer is about to find out.

Kite surfer Dunnet Sands
Kite Surfer on Dunnet Beach

If the breeze on the beach hasn’t blown the cobwebs away, then make your way to Dunnet Head. Despite most people thinking that John O’ Groats is the most northerly point on the mainland, they’re WRONG. It’s actually Dunnet Head. The views from there are stunning - it’s well worth making the effort to drive there.

If you’re partial to speciality gin and vodka, while in Dunnet, make time to visit the Dunnet Bay Distillery.


Just a few miles before Thurso is Castletown. Check out the attractive harbour here. Castletown's industrial past is celebrated by the Flagstone Heritage Trail and the Castlehill Heritage Centre.


Welcome to mainland Scotland’s most northerly town, Thurso - the other principal town in Caithness along with Wick.

St Peter's Church stands over a major junction on the NC500

There are plenty of options for lunch, light bites, or coffee in the centre, alongside a number of independent shops and visitor attractions.

Take a walk on the beach or a stroll along Victoria Walk around the cliff tops surrounding the Bay.

Thurso Beach
Thurso beach is popular with locals and visitors alike

Another popular walk is along the riverbank starting from the main road bridge in the town. Thurso River is famous among anglers and this walk can take you as far up the river as the Salmon Pool. This walk is wheelchair accessible.

Thurso River Walk
The start of the river walk from the main road bridge in Thurso

In town check out the North Coast Visitor Centre (formerly known as Caithness Horizons – some of the old signposts still remain)

Old St Peter's Church

A must-visit if you're in the town - Old St. Peter's Church is a ruined parish church on Wilson Lane.

Old St Peter's Church
Old St Peter's Church - a popular visitor attraction

Dedicated to Saint Peter, it dates to at least 1125, and at one time was the principal church for the county, administered by the Bishops of Caithness.

From Old St Peter’s Church you can look across the river to the ruins of Thurso Castle.

Thurso Castle
The ruins of Thurso Castle stand over the entrance to the river.

Since you’re in the north, why not check out the most northerly whisky distillery in mainland UK – Wolfburn. It’s taken over the distinction of the most northerly whisky distillery from Old Pulteney in Wick. Those 21 miles make a big difference in bragging rights. If you want to visit, it’s recommended you book in the summer months.

The busy harbour of Scrabster, which you can see on the other side of Thurso Bay is also well worth a visit. Seafood landed here is taken directly to many parts of Europe and the harbour is developing as a supply base for the marine renewables sector. You can easily walk to Scrabster by following the paths around the bay.

In fact a walk to Scrabster and back is a fitting way to end Day Four of your Caithness tour.