Things To Do
Ice & Fire Distillery is located in Smerral in the Strath of Latheronwheel. This is in the far north county of Caithness which borders the North Sea on the East coast and the infamous Pentland Firth on the North Coast. The Pentland Firth has the reputation of ferocious tides which make it ideal for one of the first tidal power underwater farms in the world.
The beautiful Caithness Flow country lies behind the distillery and stretches to the mountains of Morven, Scaraben and Maidens Pap at Berriedale. The Flow Country is a large, rolling expanse of peatland and wetland area of Caithness and Sutherland in Scotland. It is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, and covers about 4,000 square kilometres. The burn of Latheronwheel meanders through the crofts down to the sea.
The borders of Caithness are the Pentland Firth to the north and Moray Firth to the east. Caithness meets Sutherland, together covering the far north coast of Scotland. The coast is low-lying on the east, and majestic on the north, with high cliffs and offshore stacks at places like Duncansby Head and the remarkable Whaligoe Steps
The sea cliffs and headlands of Caithness come alive in spring as nesting seabirds return to breed. Puffins, fulmars, razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots and shags find old nest sites and burrows and rekindle partnerships on the sea cliffs. Around 20% of the Caithness coastline has cliffs more than 15 m high.
Morven is the highest point in Caithness and a very fine and steep-sided conical peak. It is a wonderful viewpoint, best ascended from the road end at Braemore and is 2316 ft. Scaraben is the next highest hill at 2054 ft.
The name Ice & Fire comes from the amazing Aurora Borealis which we see regularly in Caithness.
The wide open spaces, lack of light pollution and our proximity to the Arctic Circle make it a perfect viewing point for seeing the “Northern Lights” with local Caithness photographers regularly making the National newspapers with stunning images and videos.
The nearest village to Smerral is Latheronwheel. The second element of the place name Latheronwheel is probably from the Gaelic Faedhail (pronounced ‘fuil’) meaning a ford, this Gaelic word is borrowed from the Norse vathill a wading place.
Castletown Heritage Society
Castletown Heritage Society is a community group established in 1986 ‘To preserve the character, history and traditions of the Village of Castletown and Parish of Olrig.’ We have long been convinced of the importance of our village and parish in terms of its setting, its ancient past and its reflection of social and industrial change. Its rich geographical diversity includes Olrig Hill to the south, the bays of Murkle and Dunnet, the harbour at Castlehill, the dune system, the grassland links, the farm lands, the plantations of trees, a drained loch, dams and water courses.
Harbour Road, Castletown, Thurso, KW14 8TG
Tel: 01847 821120
The Castle and Gardens of Mey
The Castle and Gardens of Mey have held Visit Scotland’s highest award of a 5 Star quality assurance grading every year since their first unannounced visit in 2007. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother first saw what was then Barrogill Castle in 1952. Falling for its isolated charm and hearing it was to be abandoned, she decided to save it. The visitor centre, tearoom, shop, grounds and animal centre are open every day during the normal season from 10am until 5pm.
The Castle of Mey, Thurso, KW14 8XH
Tel: 01847 851473
Northern Saints Trails
We are a small group who have devised six circular routes within Caithness linking sites associated with the early Celtic saints of the area. We have a list of 33 saints and 32 sites. We have also listed similar sites on the non-Caithness parts of the NC500, giving a total of 50 saints and 50 sites. We have a website with a map of the Caithness routes, an alphabetical list of the saints with a few details of their lives and descriptions of the routes. We had three motives for embarking on this project – to make people more aware of this little-known aspect of our history, to remind the various Christian churches of our shared heritage and to encourage visitors to spend more time in the county.
Scaraben, Westside, Dunnet, Thurso, KW14 8YD
Caithness Horizons Museum
The magnificently restored building houses a permanent exhibition which tells the story of the county of Caithness from the geological period known as the Devonian (about 416 to 359 million years ago) to the present day. The Gallery hosts temporary exhibitions including displays of work by local artists. Caithness Horizons takes visitors on a truly remarkable journey into all that Caithness has to offer.
High Street, Thurso, KW14 8AJ
Tel: 01847 896508
Dunbeath Heritage Centre
The Centre provides a focus for the work of Dunbeath Preservation Trust: a research base; a repository for research data, manuscripts, photographs and items of local material culture; an exhibition and interpretation space; a venue for lectures, storytelling and workshops; a gathering place for local people and visitors – young and old – alike.
Hill O’ Many Stanes
The Hill o’ Many Stanes is a strange sight to behold. It is the largest and best preserved of several multiple rows of small stones which were erected by the inhabitants of Caithness and eastern Sutherland, around 4,000 years ago. The 200-plus stones, none of which are more than waist height, are arranged in at least 22 rows. These rows fan out slightly as they descend the south-facing slope. Located just 4 miles North East of Lybster on the A99 it is an interesting site.
Caithness Archives Centre
The Highland Archive Service preserves, conserves and makes accessible the archive collections in the care of The Highland Council, and provides a Records Management Service to the authority. The service is delivered through four archive centres, located in Caithness, Lochaber and Skye & Lochalsh, and the Highland Archive Centre at Inverness which also includes a Conservation Unit and a dedicated Family History Centre. This Caithness Archives Centre is located in Wick Library.
The two Grey Cairns of Camster are among the oldest stone monuments in Scotland. They were built over 5,000 years ago. Even before their excavation and restoration by Historic Scotland in the later 20th century they were two of the best preserved burial tombs surviving from the neolithic period anywhere in Britain. Their location – on a windswept moor in the heart of the Caithness ‘Flow Country’ – probably ensured their survival from the ravages of later farmers.
Castlehill Heritage Centre
Castlehill Heritage Centre is operated by Castletown Heritage Society as a visitor experience and educational resource. Themed exhibitions are held throughout the year featuring the history, heritage, biodiversity and social history of Castletown and the parish of Olrig.
Clan Gunn Heritage Centre
The Clan Gunn Heritage Centre tells the story of one of Scotland’s oldest clans, from its Norse origins to the present day. Explore the history and heritage of Clann Gunn and discover where it fits into the Highland history of Scotland. The heritage centre is housed in the old Parish Church, Latheron which was built in 1734.
Cnoc Freicead Long Cairns
Cnoc Freiceadain is a chambered long horned cairn, dating from the Neolithic. It measures 67m long NE-SW.This cairn forms the site of Cnoc Freiceadain Long Cairns, the other cairn is just under 100 metres away, it is slightly larger and set at right angles to this cairn NW-SE. Between them they occupy the top of the hillside. Both are grassed over with stones sticking out.
John O’Groats Information Point
This is an ‘Information Point in Partnership’ with VisitScotland and is located in the village of John O’Groats and offers a wide range of local information. Come and visit at the ‘end of the road’! Open all year and located within the First and Last Gift Shop which offers a unique and wide range of gifts to complement a free information service.
Laidhay Croft Museum
Laidhay is a two hundred year old rush thatched Caithness longhouse just north of Dunbeath, and is a typical example of the older style of Caithness croft dwellings. The croft museum incorporates the modified longhouse of the main building – the dwelling, with the stable and byre at each end, the detached barn with the original cruck roof and a cart shed to the south. There is also a modern shed, built to contain the museums large collection of farming implements.
Mary Ann’s Cottage & Caithness Croft Museum
Mary-Ann’s cottage is just a few miles from the most northerly point on the UK mainland – Dunnet Head in Caithness. This croft which was built in around 1850 has been preserved as it was lived in by Mary-Ann Calder, who until she was 89 lived in the croft and cooked using peat over an open range fire. It is now owned by the Caithness Heritage Trust who provide guided tours of the cottage. There is a small charge for viewing the croft. Mary-Ann’s Cottage is open every day from June to September 2pm-4:30pm, and on Tuesdays we open 10am-4.30pm. Directions: Take A863 to Dunnet. Turn toward Brough & Dunnet Head. Keep straight on first junction toward Dwarick Pier.
Sinclair & Girnigoe (Ruins)
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is the only castle in Scotland to be listed by the World Monuments Fund. This once impregnable medieval/renaissance stronghold is now the most spectacular ruin in the North of Scotland and is the subject of a preservation programme by its owner, The Clan Sinclair Trust.
The Caithness Broch Centre
The Caithness Broch Centre explores three key areas: The 19th- and early 20th-century communities who first excavated the brochs; the communities who lived in the brochs; and the legacies the brochs bring to the present day communities. Open April to September.
The Wick Society
The Wick Society invites you to discover the rich heritage or Wick and to be actively involved in preserving, developing and presenting the enthralling story of Wick, and generations of its people. There is a museum and collections of photographs, a restored fishing boat; includes photo galleries, locations, and a history.
Wick Information Point
This is an ‘Information Point in Partnership’ with VisitScotland and is located within MacAllan’s in the centre of Wick and offers a wide selection of free information. Along with free information on places to visit, accommodation and activities in the area, MacAllan’s can also provide you with all your traditional Highland Dress requirements.