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  • Dunnet Peninsula in Caithness

    Dunnet itself runs along the line of the A836 coast road, but then extends north west in a highly scattered pattern of houses and cottages interspersed with meadows full of flowers, the B855 will take you to Dunnet Head, a headland quite high there’s a bit of a climb towards the end where there’s a car park by the lighthouse from here it is a short walk to a rugged peninsula.

    The sharp dramatic cliffs are home to a Stevenson Lighthouse which is now electrified, it protects the sailors of the often treacherous Pentland Firth.

    • Dunnet Bay Geolocation Latitude 58.6725° N Longitude -3.37528° E
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    The village of Dunnet stands close to the north east corner of Dunnet Bay, to the south is nearly two miles of beautiful sandy beach backed by magnificent dunes, forming the eastern end of the bay, to the north of Dunnet the land gently rises to form Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Britain whose cliffs fall 300ft sheer into the Pentland Firth, at its maximum the headland extent about 3 miles from north to south and 2 miles from east to west, with peat bogs and vast areas of heather that can be seen on the way out to the cliffs, on a clear day the northern end commands some of the most extensive views you are likely to find anywhere in northern Scotland, over to Orkney, this is a wild and untamed landscape, some days raining with a howling wind coming of the sea, with an arctic bite.

    Here you will find stunning sea cliffs and coastal grasslands, birds by the thousands nest here early in the summer, home to puffins, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes.

    Few people know the vital part this area played in World War 2, as communications bases. Rangers are based here in summer.

  • Thurso is a small town of considerable distinction and interest. It has a splendid natural situation, on the sweep of Thurso Bay, with its wide stretch of sands and guarded at either point by the towering cliffs of Holburn Head and Clairdon Head, with Dunnet Head standing majestically beyond, and across the Pentland Firth the distant cliffs of Hoy in Orkney.

    Thurso river flows through the town and into the bay, a long lively stretch of fine fishing water beloved of the salmon and trout fishermen; it has its source and tributaries far inland in the hills and lonely moors, and actually runs through the length of Loch More before it reaches the cultivated plateau of the north east.

    The town must have been an important centre for the Viking invaders of the coast of Scotland, who gave it the name Thor's-a literally the river of the god Thor. Their power reached its height in the 1lth cent. under Thorfinn, who defeated the army of King Duncan’s nephew at Thurso in A.D. 1040.

    • Thurso Geolocation Latitude 58.593566 Longitude -3.522080
    • Thurso Postcode KW14
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    To the NE. of the town is Thurso Castle, now roofless, home of the Ulbster branch of the Sinclair Family. Beyond the castle, Harold‘s Tower, the family burial place, is said to be built over the grave of Earl Harold, who ruled over half of Caithness and half of the Orkney and Shetland islands. He fell in battle with Earl Harold the Wicked in the l2th cent.

    There are three very clearly defined periods of development to be observed through the architecture of the town. The first is in the old streets near the harbour, where l7th- and early 18th-cent fishermen's houses have been well restored.

    The ruin of St Peter's Church, once the chapel of the bishops of Caithness, is here, with the tracery of one great window still intact.

    The second phase was initiated by that fore sighted son of Thurso, born in the castle, and author of so many improvements in the north, Sir John Sinclair.

    While most coastal settlements have had their economic history based on the fishing industry, Thurso in the far north-east was from medieval times more of a commercial port.
    As far back as the 14th century Caithness was an important grain producer, exported and the cereal through Thurso to Scandinavia. Indeed, so significant was this trade that King David II decreed that a common weight should be used throughout Scotland: the pondus Cathaniae, or 'weight of Caithness'. The trade between Thurso and the other countries of northern Europe helped the town to establish a firm economic base and in the 17th century the export of meal, beef, hides and fish all contributed to the prosperity of this royal burgh. Indeed, the town's Rotterdam Street is an apt reminder of the thriving sea traffic of former times.

    When the Caithness flagstone industry developed, again Thurso was ready to act as a commercial seaport and enjoyed renewed prosperity until the advent of concrete paving blocks. Thereafter the town went into decline, witnessing a significant fall in its population until the arrival of the atomic energy establishment at Dounreay, some few miles to the west along the coast. Thurso has a long continuous history of settlement, going back to Viking times (Old Norse Thana: 'Thor's River'), and a number of its existing buildings reflect this.

    The ruined Old St Peter's Kirk, close by the harbour, is one of the finest religious buildings of the Middle Ages to have survived in Scotland. It dates from the 13th century, was reconstructed in the 17th century and last used in 1862. Much of the town's layout was due to Sir John Sinclair, 'Agricultural Sir John', so called from his interest in improved farming methods. His broad, evenly spaced streets and pleasant squares built in the early 19th century are a witness to his vision. and its integrity has been largely maintained by subsequent developers. Thurso offers a good selection off bed and breakfast accommodation.
    Thurso and its immediate environs have produced some notable men. In 1811 Robert Dick a baker, botanist and geologist. was a self-taught genius who was influential in his chosen fields. Almost every day he rose at 3 o'clock in the morning to attend to his daily baking chores before he finished the remainder of a crowded dav with his studies and research. Sir William Smith was born in Pennyland House. on the outskirts of Thurso; he founded the Boys Brigade in 1883. Thurso Folk Museum, in the High Street. in addition to presenting a kaleidoscopic display reflecting local life in past centuries, houses the enigmatic Ulbstcr Stone, carved with ancient Pictish and Christian symbols.

    Thurso (Highland) is a busy resort in summer it is astride the river of the same name, overlooks Thurso Bay. The town makes a good centre for visiting the north coast from Durness to Duncansby Head and even for a trip to the Orkneys.

    Thurso has plenty on offer for the visitor to take advantage of, to make a great day out or longer holiday stay in the area.
    From Thurso to Durness is 74 miles  along the north coast through moorland scenery giving way to the coastal scenery beyond, composed of an ever changing pattern of sandy bays lochs, and headlands, here you can still find Flagstone fencing.

    Scrabster a terminal port for the car ferry to Stromness in the Orkneys.

    Dounreay - The Dounreay Exhibition Area comprises a picnic area and an explanatory exhibition. Tours to the Prototype Fast Reactor leave from the exhibition area. The Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) with its large pale green globe, operated from 1959 to 1977 when it was de-commissioned. Alongside is the Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) an experimental station for the development of future commercial fast reactors. The reactor uses a fuel mixture of uranium and plutonium with liquid sodium metal as a medium to transfer heat from the reactor core. Melvich Bay. - From the War Memorial behind the hotel in the crofting community of Melvich there is a splendid view over Melvich Bay with the sand bar. The island of Hoy is visible in the distance. Cross the River Strathy which opens into another sandy estuary, Strathy Bay a 15 min walk from the car park to the point. There are excellent views along the coast to the east of Strathy Bay in the foreground, with further out Dounreay and Hay in the distance. The landscape then becomes scoured and hummocky with the stately outline of the granite peaks of Ben loyal (12 504ft-764m) ahead, rising above the plateau surface.

    Bettyhill- is one of the crofting communities which originated at the time of the clearances when crofters were evicted, in this case from Strathnaver, to make way for sheep. Many emigrated while others tried to eke out an existence in seashore communities. The story of the clearances is the subject of an exhibition in Farr Church. The road then follows the sandy estuary of Torrisdale Bay crosses the river, then climbs out of Strathnaver to ascend to the scoured plateau surface dotted with reed choked lochs. Go round Cnoc an Fhreiceadain and just before reaching Coldbackie there are excellent views of the great sea loch, the Kyle of Tongue is a Small village on the shores of the sea loch, with Rabbit Islands in the middle.

    The Kyle of Tongue is bridged by a causeway which offers a new view inland towards Ben Loyal and ahead the ruined Mackay stronghold perched on an eminence. The more regular outline of Ben Hope appears on the horizon. Peat banks are visible from time to time. On the descent there are glimpses of Loch Hope stretching away to the left. From the west side of Loch Hope there are fine views of the loch stretching away to Ben Hope
    (3 040ft-927m) in the background. Only slightly further on a magnificent view unfolds of Loch Eriboll. another deeply penetrating sea loch.
    Sangobeg has a lovely sandy beach.
    Smoo Cave An outcrop of well jointed limestone's in the Durness vicinity accounts for the presence of this cave and the sandy beaches. The waters of the Allt Smoo plunge down a sink hole to reappear at sea level at the mouth of the outer cave. The two inner caves are accessible only to equipped potholers.