A county that is truly unlike any other part of the UK, Caithness is the home of Dunnet head, the most northerly part of mainland UK. The county is famous for the flow country, whisky, fishing and more recently the UK’s nuclear industry. Right at the top of the Scottish mainland, the county was at one time more Norse than Scottish but latterly became known for its fishing industry.
Heading north from Inverness, as you travel through Easter Ross and Sutherland the landscape before you changes in a dramatic fashion. The mountains of the Highlands give way to the vast flat peat bogs of the flow country allowing you to see for miles in all directions – this is genuinely where you’ll see Scotland’s big skies and if you’re really lucky, the northern lights at night. Keeping on the road, you’ll find treasures like their Whalligioe Steps – not for the faint hearted as they take you 500 feet down a sheer cliff face to the North Sea. YOU’ll definitely feel for the fisher folk who used them in days gone by to haul their catch up to the mainland. When you pass the historic towns of Wick and Thurso and reach Dunnet Head, look out north and past Orkney all the way up to the Arctic or a clear day. Afterwards, pop along the north coast to see some modern history – Dounreay, the home of the UK’s experimental nuclear programme during the cold war – or see the castle where the Royal Family still spend some time during the year.
You can lose a week in Caithness alone or you can take it in as part of a tour around the North Coast 500. However you do it, remember to take the time to stop and truly enjoy this unique area of Scotland.