Caithness & Sutherland

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

Caithness & Sutherland

Located in the far north of Scotland, the Caithness and Sutherland region is a place of remote, rugged beauty that feels a million miles from the hubbub of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The area’s northernmost tip is on the same latitude as Norway and its coastlines are bounded by the North Sea to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, with very few towns and villages between them.

The geography of Caithness is known for its flat, fertile farmland and low-lying moors, while Sutherland boasts wild, mountainous landscapes, its highest point being the 3,270-foot Ben More.

The coastline is a spectacular combination of steep cliffs, golden beaches, and hidden-away bays, with the Pentland Firth – one of Britain’s most treacherous stretches of water – separating the mainland from the Orkney Islands beyond the famous John O’ Groats.

The Flow Country, the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, spreads across much of the region to create a vast wilderness that’s a haven for wildlife. Further west, the mountains of Sutherland, including the distinctive peak of Suilven, offer stunning panoramas and challenging hikes.

Craig Neil at Ben More

The region is also home to a wealth of beautiful lochs including Loch Shin, Loch Naver, and Loch Assynt, while the beaches, particularly along the North Coast 500 route, present visitors with a panorama of golden sands and turquoise waters that rival those in any tropical country.

When it comes to tourist attractions, Caithness and Sutherland have plenty of sites that are worth visiting such as the Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother’s former residence, which is a must-visit attarction thanks to its lovely gardens and views across the Pentland Firth.

For history enthusiasts, the 5,000-year-old Neolithic burial chambers of the Camster Cairns offer a glimpse into Scotland’s ancient past, while for nature lovers, the Handa Island Wildlife Reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise as it’s home to an array of seabirds including puffins and guillemots.

The region’s towns also hold appeal. Wick, in Caithness, was once the herring capital of Europe and its past can be explored at the Wick Heritage Centre. Thurso, the northernmost town on the UK mainland, is popular with surfers and is home to the fascinating North Coast Visitor Centre. One particular highlight is the remote village of Durness, which is home to Smoo Cave, a cathedral-like sea cave with a waterfall inside, as well as the picturesque village of Tongue which offers stunning views over the Kyle of Tongue from a viewpoint at Castle Varrich.

Smoo Cave

Find places to visit and things to do in Caithness & Sutherland with these visitor guides.

  • Ben Hope

    Ben Hope

    Ben Hope is a 3,170-foot Munro (a mountain over 3,000 feet) in the Sutherland area of Scotland. The mountains is best known for being the most northerly peak in mainland Britain and it offers a superb hike into the Highlands with spectacular views from the summit. Discover Ben Hope with this complete visitor guide.

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  • Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

    Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

    This castle (actually castles – more on that later) stands on one of the most dramatic viewpoints in Scotland (in my humble opinion) with a wild and windswept coastline that instantly brings to mind a scene from Game of Thrones rather than a tourist attraction thanks to its near-impenetrable cliff-face setting.

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  • Castle Varrich

    Castle Varrich

    Perched on top of an exposed promontory on the Kyle of Tongue sits Castle Varrich, a small fortified tower that offers superb views of Ben Loyal mountain from its sturdy viewing platform. The castle is easily accessed from a well-managed footpath that runs from the village of Tongue through woodland and fields. Discover Castle Varrich…

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  • Causeymire Wind Farm

    Causeymire Wind Farm

    This pleasant walk will take you across Dale Moss near Thurso and up close to the Causeymire wind farm where you will see the impressive turbines generating power for the local area. There are lovely views to take in along the way on paths that are gravelled and well-maintained, making this wild part of northeast…

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  • Duncansby Head

    Duncansby Head

    Duncansby Head is located approximately 5 miles along the coast from John o’ Groats. It is the furthest northeast point of mainland Britain. The area is popular with visitors due to the number of seabirds that thrive in the area, especially the adorable puffins that are frequently seen nesting on the immense rock pinnacles of…

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  • Dunrobin Castle

    Dunrobin Castle

    Dunrobin Castle, located in Sutherland in the Northern Highlands, is the most northerly ancestral castle in Scotland and dates back to the early 1300s. The castle is styled after the great châteaus in France and it is widely recognized as the most beautiful historic building in Scotland.

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  • Faraid Head

    Faraid Head

    Faraid Head and Balnakeil Bay are located on a peninsula on the north coast of Scotland, 3 miles north of Durness. The peninsula is a popular tourist destination thanks to the wide expanse of golden beach at Balnakeil Beach which faces a shallow bay. The area behind the beach is covered in dunes and grasses…

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  • John O’ Groats

    John O’ Groats

    John O’ Groats is a popular tourist destination on the northernmost tip of Scotland that has gained popularity since becoming a major stop on the NC500 tourist trail. The site includes several family-friendly attractions including an art gallery, gift shops and restaurants, but it is the signpost that’s the real draw and getting a photograph…

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  • Smoo Cave

    Smoo Cave

    Smoo Cave near Durness has one of the largest sea cave entrances in Britain. The main cavern is 50 feet high and spreads out in an impressive cathedral-like space that features an opening that takes visitors across a subterranean pool and a waterfall. Discover Smoo Cave with this complete visitor guide.

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  • Talmine Bay

    Talmine Bay

    Talmine is a crofting and fishing village overlooking Talmine Bay north of the A838 bridge near Tongue Bay in Sutherland. The bay is best known for its scenery and the wildlife that live in the area which offers frequent sightings of seals and dolphins. Discover Talmine Bay with this complete visitor guide.

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  • The Best Free Things to Do in Caithness & Sutherland

    The Best Free Things to Do in Caithness & Sutherland

    The North Highlands offers some of the wildest, most remote, and most scenic landscapes of anywhere in Europe. From John O’ Groats to Ullapool, you’re guaranteed to become smitten with the beauty of this extraordinary region of Scotland. In this article you will discover a list of completely free-to-visit attractions in Caithness & Sutherland that…

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  • Wick Heritage Museum

    Wick Heritage Museum

    Wick Heritage Museum in the North Highlands aims to promote the town’s history and culture through a collection of exhibits and artefacts. The museum is located inside a large townhouse near Wick harbour where it showcases displays of Caithness glass, exhibits from the town’s fishing industry and much more.

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