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Castletown Hotel · Main Street · Castletown · Near Thurso · KW14 8TP · Call us on: 01847 821656

Local Area Guide


The Hotel is located in the picturesque village of Castletown within Dunnet Bay in the northernmost Highlands of Scotland. Situated just a short distance inland, this historic village features its own local harbour and heritage centre. The surrounding area is home to some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in Scotland, with miles of unspoilt beaches, craggy hills, and steep cliff faces. Here you can discover our three outstanding coasts and the vast open spaces of the Flow Country. Whether venturer or adventurer, Caithness offers you numerous unique leisure opportunities.

Diving – Diving in Caithness is available throughout the year. It is known to have some of the finest diving areas in the UK, particularly the popular scenic and wreck sites.

Kayaking – The Pentland Canoe Club is based in Thurso, where the club enjoys most forms of paddling due to the Caithness environment. Kayaking is a very popular activity, and is also available in Wick.

White Water Rafting ­– And white water tours in the Pentland Firth are an exciting adventure as you enjoy a scenic route and ride through standing waves and overfalls. This excellent pastime is made available through a state-of-the-art 11 metre RIB operating out of John O’Groats.

Climbing ­– The most frequented areas are at Latheronwheel and Mid Clyth, however there are other lesser known areas to climb such as Sarclet, Occumster, and Noss, amongst others. Most climbing points are found in the SMC guide to Northern Highlands.

Fishing – Probably one of the most popular pastimes in Caithness, there are a range of fishing areas waiting to be explored.For more on fishing visit Wick's local fishing shop, Hugo Ross.

Golf – There are many different golf courses to make the most of. All of which are thoroughly enjoyed by both tourists and the locals.

Surfing - The world famous reef break at Thurso East has become popular for surfers from all over the world. It is a sparsely populated area, meaning there is a good chance you will be surfing by yourself, or maybe even with a few seals.

Caithness Seacoast - For something different but lots of fun for all the family Wick offers you the chance to go on an exciting adventure around the seacoast. You will be taken out on their Geo Explorer to give you the opportunity to visit a vast array of ruined castles and learn about their dark histories, to see birds and marine animals up close, explore caves, visit Whaligoe steps, and other superb activities. 

Aurora Borealis – Otherwise known as the Northern lights, if you're lucky you might see this natural phenomenon in our clear night skies. With less light pollution than anywhere else in the UK, you will come to no better place whether it's the Northern Lights or stars you're looking for. To view this beautiful sight, these videos were taken in Caithness.

Geopark - Explore Scotland’s three and a half billion years journey through time. Here you can discover old rocks and classic hills like Suilven and Stac Pollaidh. In amongst the wildest places in place, take a chance to breathe it all in. Bag a Munro by scaling Ben Hope and take in the magnificent view across the Kyle of Tongue and far west to Lochinver.

Walking – Take a chance to discover the stunning lands of Caithness, where you can view the remarkable coastline and delve into the history of the county thanks to our archaeological remains.

 

If you would rather a relaxing walk Dunnet Forest is a beautiful location, not only will you find lots of wildlife but you could also discover the Scottish Primrose, a flower native to Caithness, Orkney, and Sutherland. They flower in May but will often have a second flowering in July. Many botanists considethem to be one of the most attractive flowers with its distinctive bluish purple heart shaped petals and bright yellow centre. This does not mean they are easy to spot as they are only 8mm in diameter and are in danger of becoming extinct due to agricultural improvement, house building, fences blocking ​grazing cattle, and tree planting. Unfortunately this delicate beauty has disappeared from at least 75 areas where they once thrived. Promisingly, however, they have appeared in 19 new locations.

Nearby is Dunnet Head nature reserve located on the most northerly point in Mainland Britain. Its stunning sea cliffs and coastal grassland are home to a range of birds including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, cormorants, peregrine falcons, and much more besides. On top of the cliffs and in among trees there can occasionally be a large red deer and roe deer. A little further afield is John O’Groats, famous for being at the end of the longest distance between two inhabited points on the British mainland. There are also plenty of opportunities for day trips to the marvellous Orkney Isles as well as wildlife cruises across the Pentland Firth.

The wildlife cruises across the Pentland Firth are known to attract not just tourists, but the locals too. When you set off from Gills Bay you will be able to see the Stroma and Swona islands where common and grey seals can be seen lazing on the shore. If you look carefully at Swona island you might even be able able to catch a glimpse of the now famous feral cattle. Depending on the time of year, while passing through the Firth, you may be able to find porpoises, orca, dolphins, Minke Whales and on the rare occasion in the summer perhaps even a basking shark. Bird watchers will be able to enjoy the opportunity to see bird colonies close up. There are a variety of birds including puffins, fulmars, great skua, razor bills, guillemots, gannets, and many others.

More locally it has become common for otters to be seen in the rivers of both Wick and Thurso, although they are occasionally seen in Havens or beaches, near small streams. For more information on watching for wildlife please click here.

What’s more with free on-site parking, it is both convenient and accessible. The nearest city is Inverness, which is roughly a 2 hour 30 minute drive through some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Scotland. Thurso train station provides regular services to Inverness and the hotel is also located on the main bus route to and from the city. There are two car-ferry ports; one at Gills Bay and another at Scrabster, each just a 15 minute drive away. For those travelling by air, Inverness Airport offers flights to a range of national and European destinations whilst the regional Airport at Wick is just a 20 minute drive away and receives flights from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Kirkwall.

The old Viking town of Wick is just half an hour away and is home to the famous Old Pulteney Distillery. Here visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the distillery and even sample a dram of their distinctive ‘Genuine Maritime Malt’.

For history enthusiasts, the 16th Century Castle and Gardens of Mey is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions and remains to this day a striking architectural achievement and a fascinating day out.

In Thurso there is a variety of different activities if the outdoors and wildlife adventures are not to your taste. If you would like to take part in sports there is golf driving range, swimming pool, fitness centre, regional rugby club, and squash and tennis courts. For a quieter but equally enjoyable day out the Thurso cinema offers a great range of new movie releases to watch, and there is also a bar and restaurant. There are also libraries, art galleries, and a selection of local shops.

Also on offer is a chance to get a taste of the thriving music scene that holds many genres of music for everyone to enjoy. Traditional music has deep roots within our northern culture, and there are plenty of venues across the county where you can visit to experience anything from break beat to bagpipes. Listening to our music will also give you the opportunity to get “the craic” with other visiting tourists and local residents. Whether you are looking for artists, galleries, cinemas, historical exhibition, or visitor centres, there is a wealth of activities available for you to enjoy.


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