In an age of 100pmh box-ticking, whistle-stop travel, wide open spaces and a gentle pace to life make Thurso an arena in which to escape – a place to unwind and feel authenticity as you explore.
Spend time with these five places, acquaint yourself with the North Coast sea breeze, and discover things undiscoverable anywhere else in the world. This itinerary offers a different kind of box-ticking, a kind that permits you to slow down and focus on the place where you are now, before moving onto the next if you so wish.
Highlight – In Spring and sometimes throughout the summer, you can find the elusive Scottish Primrose around the coastal farmlands of Caithness. Considered one of the most scarce and beautiful plants in the world, it grows nowhere other than Orkney, Sutherland, and Caithness. If you’re here at the right time of year, take some time to see if you can find one of these delicate natural treasures to appreciate – otherwise enjoy what is a spectacular place to walk in its own right.
How many towns have utter serenity a little walk away? From the energetic Scrabster Harbour, head along the coast towards Holburn Head Lighthouse – day dream about calling the idyllic building home – then pass through the gate to the left to wander towards Holborn Head.
Respectfully navigate gates and stiles as you follow the coastline through the fields and away from the lighthouse and the bustling port behind. Maintain focus on your surroundings; dramatic sinkholes and sheer cliff faces merit healthy trepidation, and your concentration on these stunning surroundings will reward you beautifully.
As you reach the tip of Holborn Head, you’re almost surrounded by sea and totally consumed in the world’s freshest sea breeze, one that can fizzle out into summer vibes or whip up into an invigorating gale without warning.
Highlight – This one of a kind landscape is also a bird reserve. Visit the RSPB Forsinard site to learn what you can see, hear and experience in the Flow Country at different times of the year. Elusive tranquillity in which to dial your senses into their unique surroundings before returning to your itinerary.
The Flow Country is a short train journey from Thurso. The 40-minute skip from town, to countryside, to wilderness perfectly brings you down to the pace at which this unearthly landscape is best discovered.
As the largest bog of its kind in Europe, The Flows are a vital landscape in combating climate change – they contain more than double the amount of carbon held in all of Britain’s woodlands!
“From above the land is a mottled pattern of peat and pools, their colours shifting like an opal. But look a little closer and you’ll find a world of amazing plants, rare birds, and a place to be inspired by peace and space.”
Highlight – Have you heard of the Groatie Buckie? Local legend has it that the little shells bring good luck to those with the patience to find them.
As local artist Lisa Bridge says in her expert guide on scouring for Groatie Buckies linked below:
“Bringing good luck merely scratches the surface when it comes to the benefits of a good Groatie Buckie search. Whether you realise it or not, the activity encourages you to subconsciously tune into your surroundings and switch off from everyday thoughts…”
From Thurso Town Centre, cross the Ellen Bridge (foot bridge nearest to the river mouth), and follow the desire path to your left immediately at the other side of the bridge. Continue down Sir Archibald Road through the industrial area, and once you pass through the wooden gate you won’t be far from a few suitable nooks for beach-combing.
Dress for the weather, add one more layer because it’s Caithness, venture to Thurso East between the castle and the formidable surf to find yourself a patch of pebbles, sand and shells, and comb away.
After a little search, head along the coast to a viewpoint deemed good enough for Lady Janet Sinclair who once occupied Thurso Castle. Only the base remains of what was once a small tower, but it offers fantastic view of both Thurso Bay and the town itself. Catch your breath and contemplate coming adventures.
Highlight – Dunnet is an exceptionally friendly beach on which to let your adventurous self loose. Aside from at the very ends of the beach, there is little in the way of rocks to be mindful of – golden sand only. Surf, paddle and swim ’til your heart’s content.
Hit the link below if you’re looking to dabble in surfing while you’re here. When in Rome after all.
Two miles of sandy beach with dunes on one side and fresh, fresh Dunnet Bay water on the other. Explore the dunes, rejuvenate yourself in the sea, or just put one sandy foot in front of the other and absorb the nourishment of maritime surroundings.
The villages of Castletown and Dunnet at either end of the beach happen to be idyllic places to either start or finish this therapeutic beach stroll.
Highlight – Gazing at a pristine array of stars, Noctilucent Clouds, or seeing the Northern Lights stuns even Thurso locals who have the opportunity on their door step – people travel far and wide to experience these natural phenomena, make a point of getting outside on a clear night, escaping light pollution, and looking up while you’re in town.
Many of the tranquil places around Thurso come to life after dark – Caithness has some of Europe’s darkest night skies and, as far as accessibility goes, stargazing around here is second to none.
The harbour is a short walk from the town centre and is far enough away from the bright lights of Thurso for phenomenal stargazing on a clear night – once in a while when the conditions are right, you can round your day off here with an awe-inspiring sighting of the aurora. Check out the local astronomy group’s website below for tips on how to both sight and photograph the best of what the sky at 58.6 N has to offer, as well as an extensive list of stargazing spots in Caithness.
Castlehill Heritage Centre in Castletown and the Flow Country mentioned above are two particularly stunning nearby dark sky sites.
Some handy information to give you a real feel for Thurso during your stay - enjoy!