Our top 10 must see's on the North coast!
Apart from having a surf lesson with us, of course;)
These striking pillars of rock that tower 60 meters up to the sky are not something to be missed. Drive an extra mile or two East from John'O Groats and you'll arrive in a carpark next to a lighthouse. Initially your attention in drawn North to view Orkney but the real delight lies to the South. Follow the path and you'll first pass a geo filled with thousands of birds! Further on from this is Duncansby stacks- definitely a view to take in.
Further West along the North coast next to a village called Bettyhill is a big beautiful beach called Torrisdale- one of our favorites. There are many cool things to check out in this bay, especially in the valley. Park up at the Naver bridge- there used to be a chain ferry before the bridge- and walk down from here to explore the beach. Look out for a burn flowing down the side of the hill as this is the best route to get to the top- It also marks one of the many fault lines in the area. Turn right, go along the ridge and you will come across what looks like a broch. You will get an incredible view from here! Look down and you will see multiple stone circles at the bottom of the valley. These are hut circles from a neolithic settlement. Once you get back down to the bottom keep an eye out for cists too which are stone burial chambers from the bronze age. Follow the river down to the sea and take in the magnificent sand dunes- the waves can also be really good here!
It's around a 45 minute drive to get here from Thurso. On the way be sure to stop off at Melvich and Strathy beach- also incredible spots.
These are 2 of the best preserved cairns in Britain, with one 70 meters long! They were built around 3500 B.C during the neolithic era. To get here drive East, towards Wick, turning right after Watten onto a lonely moorland road for a few miles. The cairns are perched between forest and the heathery flow country. Follow the board walks and explore the cairns- we recommend bringing waterproof trousers so you can crawl through the passages and a torch is handy as it can be a bit dark. The passages open up into impressive chambers. There's a lot of history behind these mysterious monuments so check out the info boards at the cairns to find out more.
Park up, seven miles south of Wick and you'll come across a huge water geo surrounded by 3 sides of 250ft cliffs and 337 steps that zig zag down to the bottom. Once you reach the bottom you'll find a grassy pier called the Bink. The first mention of these steps in history was in 1769 and by 1855 there were 140 fisherman and 35 boats here. The last boat came in here in the 1960's. In the past women- some in their 70s- would carry baskets of fish on their backs up the steps and then walk 7 miles to Wick to the fish market... Pretty hard to comprehend. The steps are quite tricky to find due to not being sign posted so remember the turning is opposite the signpost for the "Cairn of Get".
The most northernly headland on mainland Britain! Many think John O' Groats claims this title but its actually 2.35 miles further South than Dunnet. It's a must see if passing through the area- and right next door to Dunnet beach, where we teach our surf lessons. The lighthhouse was built in 1831 is perched on an 85 meter cliff. If you follow the path round the cliffs you could see guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and puffins in the summer months. If you follow the trail up the hill from the carpark it will take you to the view point. Here you can see the Duncansby Stacks to the East, Cape Wrath to the west and North to Orkney. Also in this area are buildings from WW2 as Dunnet head was a radar station at the time.
For best viewing pleasure we would recommend taking in these scenes at sunset!
Enjoy a delicious Rock Rose Gin and Tonic by the wood-burning stove before walking over to see where the ‘magic’ happens. A tutored tasting of three of their delicious spirits around the Tasting Table and a wee goody bag concludes your tour! They last around an hour & a half, prices are from £15 and they are situated right around the corner from where we base our surf lessons- the perfect way to warm up after being in the sea:)
Another great place to visit Girnigoe castle, located over on the East coast overlooking Keiss bay (another great beginner spot on the off chance there are no waves on the North coast.) The short and sweet walk to the castle, along the clifftop is a great place to spot wildlife and take in the fresh air. The castle that stood there originally was built in the 1470s, and was occupied by the Sinclair family. It's surrounded almost completely by the sea and is perched on top of a peninsula, dangerously close to the edge. Cross the narrow bridge and explore the ruins yourself, and then skim stones in the wee bay below the castle. For more info read the information boards dotted around the area.
Peedie sands is a wee, hidden beach round from Dunnet. To get here drive towards Mary Ann's cottage and continue down to Dwarick harbour. Park your car up and go on the short walk through the gate, then up and over the headland. while your perched at the top of these dramatic cliffs you'll get a new viewing perspective of Dunnet bay and Murkle- be careful not to get too close to the edge. Sea otters and plenty of nesting birds can be spotted, and if your really lucky, even some whales and dolphins. You'll see the beach tucked under the cliffs, we recommend coming at low tide as there is much more sand to enjoy. Clamber down and enjoy this little corner of peace- if your feeling brave how about going for a refreshing dip!
The castle is about 15 miles East of Thurso and is a big attraction to the area. It was built between 1566 and 1572, and owned by Queen Elizabeth for many years. Prince Charles currently visits and stays in the castle each year in August. You can go inside the castle and explore it yourself or have a stroll through the wonderful gardens:)
Not our personal favorite but most people like to visit this landmark... Its the end of the road- apart from Duncansby Stacks. Everyone needs to get a photo with the iconic sign post! A few cafes and shops can also be found here, or in summer check out the wildlife boat tours they run at the pier everyday.