Friday, 3 June 2011

about Caithness

Ok , it dawned on me when Christina commented on a posting that many of you will probably know very little about Caithness. Hell…when I moved up here I realised a lot of true born Scots know little about the County. It’s the lowlands beyond the Highlands, neither one thing nor the other. So…here’s a little potted tour (kind of)

Map of Caithness from Calder's History - an old book of the County

Caithness is at the very top of Scotland…all those idiots brave people who cycle, run or walk backwards to John O’Groats are coming to Caithness. Go any further North on the British Mainland and you end up in the sea. Although contrary to popular believe, it is actually Dunnet head that is the most northerly place on the Mainland…not John O’Groats.

There you go...Dunnet Head seen from my garden (its the cliff in the background, Thurso is the town you can see)

There are two roads in…yes TWO. One, the A9 goes up the east coast and is where most of the traffic comes, and the other goes up the West…and is a lot wilder. Although you go through some pretty spectacular scenery to get here, once you reach Caithness it is undulating rather than hilly, can be quite bleak and is bloody windy.
Dunnet beach seen from Castletown Harbour (the beach is brilliant and massive)
Here's the beach from the other end

The place is brilliant if you like rugged scenery, wide open places, beaches that are fabulous, bird watching, hunting, shooting and fishing. I honestly don’t understand how the place isn’t more well-known…but unlike Orkney, we are run by the Highland Council...who seem to think that the world ends at Inverness.

The scenery on the way into town from my humble abode looking inland

Oh, and if you like shopping…don’t bother.

However, there are loads of artists up here and, as mentioned in a previous post, there’s a world class glass-studio. In fact, there’s a thriving community of artists, performers, writers, craftsmen and women as well as a population that is extremely friendly and welcoming….but like Brigadoon we’re rarely seen or heard.

Down by Thurso River in the summer

We have castles too….the Queen Mother made her home here in the Castle of Mey, Keiss castle here is a ruin, but there’s one further up the coast that’s still lived in. Ackergill Tower is a posh hotel which is more of a home from home that you can hire, and we have loads of old ruined ones too.

Keiss Castle, taken by me donkeys years ago

Oh, and I forgot surfing. It’s one of the top international spots for surfers. Yes, they really rate the waves, even if the water is bloody freezing!

I’m sure I’ve left some interesting snippets out…I may remember them and post another day. But for now that’s your lot.
Oh yes, we have forests this was taken by an old Pictish house...rain/dust droplets or "orbs", you decide!

If you want to see some more photos I put some up on my website gallery years ago, but as they’re on another computer you’re best viewing them here:

So…any questions, fire away


  1. YES! Oh dear Sara, please do more Caithness posts like this - I feed you with excitement if you are in need.

    One of those local artist persons

  2. oooh Patty my may yet be the subject of one of my blogs ;)

  3. Oh, yes, do set up some interviews with local artists and post them here. I think that would work really well. Love that summer shot at Thurso, but I would imagine a day like that being rare. If I didn't know for sure that hubby's depression couldn't take your weather, I'd drag his ring-making artisan's ass up there to live. He would love the isolation, actually.
    But yes, let's hear from the artists, yes!

  4. oooh Joanne,the weather...lets not go there...although the last few days have been glorious.

    I really, really cant stand the weather...I need it warm, but hubby likes it cold. Yet another sacrifice on my part Im afraid.

    Mind you...the light up here is fantastic :)

  5. Right. Long days now. Something no one talks about who just goes to visit there. I wasn't really aware until I lived at 52 degrees north latitude (East Anglia). I, too, have made some geographical sacrifices for the hubby, but he has made big ones for me to stay in Horrible Houston until today, when my daughter graduates from high school. Now, if I can sell the house, we'll be free!

  6. ooooh, I hope your daughter enjoys the freedom to be who she wants to be! A big day for you all :)

    Then you can all fly freeeeeee.

    Up here right now we're moving towards the longest day...its still light at 11pm...soon there will be very little darkness...then we start the decent again.

  7. how a city girl at heart but love to go wild on occasion and this looks pretty wild!!

  8. oh can get wild! Especially during the winter.

    But it can be calm, beautiful and welcoming too :)

  9. Dear Sara, how have I missed this? I'm more behind than I thought.

    The scenery where you live is breathtaking! I need to come and visit Scotland as I haven't been there since I was a child.

    Thanks you for this post, I actually understand where you are now! xx