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Caithness - more than just the NC500

Places to visit – Wick, John O’Groats, Castle of Mey, Pulteney distillery, the Whaligoe Steps, prehistoric sites such as the Grey Cairns of Camster, Lybster and Latherwheel, Dunbeath, Castletown, Dunnet Bay, Seadrift Visitor Centre, Dunnet head, Canisby Kirk, Keiss, Laidhay Craft Museum, the Timespan Museum in Helmsdale to name a few places to visit.

The very north-east of mainland Scotland is home to the historic county of Caithness. Miles and miles of unspoilt scenery give you the chance to get away from it all, and discover more of Scotland’s fascinating past.

Norse history is abundant here, as is glorious coast, with three of Caithness’ four boundaries joining the North Sea. Dramatic cliffs and rock formations are found on the northerly coast, while the lower levels of Caithness’ east coast include towns like Lybster, which offer enjoyable walks and pony treks through the country.

The county’s main towns of Wick and Thurso are bustling ports which play host to plenty of tourists throughout the year. Wick has castle remains dotted along its edge, and an excellent museum explaining the town’s history. Adrenaline seekers will love the windsurfing and sand yachting experiences at Wick’s Sinclair Bay. Thurso’s town centre has some fantastic shops and restaurants, a fine art gallery and library with a clock tower built in 1862, as well as plenty of places for watersports fans to enjoy the surfing and kayaking action.

The most well-known attraction for visitors to Caithness is John O’Groats, the village furthest away from Land’s End in Cornwall. Recently regenerated to offer something for everyone, there’s a common misconception that it’s the most northerly point in Britain, but that honour goes to the RSPB’s Dunnett Head nature reserve, home to seabirds like puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes who soar above the heaths and grasslands, delighting visitors of all ages.

Watten is home to Loch Watten, home of some of the best brown trout fishing, and a pub of the same name, while the coastal town of Helmsdale, once home to one of Europe’s largest herring fleets, draws in fishermen and sightseers looking for a glimpse of the River Helmsdale’s abundant stock of salmon. History fans should seek out the Emigrants Statue, commemorating the victims of the notorious Highland Clearances.

There are plenty of glorious man-made sights to see as well. Dunbeath’s 17th-century castle on the coast is as well known for its gardens as it is for its architecture. The walled gardens protect the plants from the blustery coastal winds. It’s well worth visiting on its open days or enquiring about a private tour.

With so much to do, the best way to take advantage of this part of Scotland is by booking in a self-catering property. Enjoy the privacy and flexibility of staying in your own little piece of the Highlands, whether that’s a budget-friendly caravan, or a holiday home big enough for every member of the family. At Gael Holiday Homes, we’ve even got properties where you can bring your dog.

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