Caithness: The Complete Guide

Caithness is located on the most north eastern part of mainland Scotland, and serves as the most northern county in Britain to still claim royal connections. It is a roughly triangular shape, bounded to the south and west by Sutherland, and to the north by the Pentland Firth. The vast open landscape, relatively flat, also known as the flow country, is rich in archaeological remnants of a bygone age. There are notable mountains in the south-west corner, including Morven, the highest peak in the region. The geological features of the Caithness coastline feature soaring sea stacks, raucous colonies of sea birds, and vertically faced headlands jutting out into the wild waters of the Pentland Firth. Across the Pentland Firth, ferries link Caithness with Orkney, and Caithness also has an airport at Wick.

Almost all settlement are along the coast, with the major towns being Wick, on the North Sea coast, and Thurso, in the north.

The Caith element of the name Caithness comes from the name of a Pictish tribe known as the Cat or Catt people, or Catti (see Kingdom of Cat). The -ness element comes from Old Norse and means “headland”. The Norse called the area Katanes (“headland of the Catt people”), and over time this became Caithness.

The Gaelic name for Caithness, Gallaibh, means “among the strangers” (referring to the Norse). The name of the Catti survives in the Gaelic name for eastern Sutherland, Cataibh, and in the old Gaelic name for Shetland, Innse Chat.

Visiting Caithness for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Caithness on the first visit. Top help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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9 Best places to See in Caithness

This complete guide to Caithness not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Caithness and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Castle of Mey

Mey Castle
CC BY-SA 40 / August Schwerdfeger
The Castle of Mey or Barrogill Castle is located in Caithness, on the north coast of Scotland, about 6 miles (10 km) west of John o’ Groats. In fine weather there are views from the castle north to the Orkney Islands. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother first saw what was then Barrogill Castle […]
Location: Castle Of Mey, Mey, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 8XH | Hours: 10.20am-5pm May-Sep, last entry 4pm | Price: adult/child £11.75/6.50 | Website | Distance: 13.50km
Visiting Castle of Mey

Dunnet Head & Dunnet Head Lighthouse

Dunnet Head Lighthouse
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Peter_Glyn
This rugged Caithness peninsula has the honour of being the most northerly point of mainland Britain. It’s a wild and untamed landscape, with stunning sea cliffs and coastal grasslands which are home to puffins, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwake. The trip of a few miles from the sweeping sand dunes and beach at Dunnet village […]
Visiting Dunnet Head & Dunnet Head Lighthouse

Castle Girnigoe & Castle Sinclair

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Peter_Glyn
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is located about 3 miles north of Wick on the east coast of Caithness, Scotland. It is considered to be one of the earliest seats of Clan Sinclair. It comprises the ruins of two castles: the 15th-century Castle Girnigoe; and the early 17th-century Castle Sinclair. They are designated as a scheduled monument. […]
Visiting Castle Girnigoe & Castle Sinclair

Wick Heritage Centre

Heritage Centre, Wick
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Braveheart
This award-winning and captivating museum documents the history of the town and its importance in the herring fishery. It displays everything from fishing equipment to a complete herring fishing boat – the beautifully restored 19th century fishing boat, Isabella Fortuna, which is normally berthed in Wick Harbour. The centre-piece of the museum is a superb […]
| Hours: Museum open Easter - end October, 10am - 3.45pm, Monday - Saturday | Distance: 18.20km
Visiting Wick Heritage Centre

Grey Cairns of Camster

A Neolithic Burial Long Cairn At Camster
CC BY-SA 2.0 / David Shand
A little-visited, but truly fascinating site, for anyone interested in early occupants of this country, the Grey Cairns of Camster are amongst the best-preserved Neolithic chambered cairns in the British Isles and comprise a round cairn and a long cairn. Built around 3500 BC, the cairns are thought to have been in use as burial […]
Visiting Grey Cairns of Camster

Duncansby Head lighthouse

Duncansby Head Lighthouse
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Russ McLean
Duncansby Head is the most north-easterly part of both the Scottish and British mainlands, slightly northeast of John o’ Groats. It lies approximately 20 km (12 mi) east-southeast of Dunnet Head, the northernmost point of both the Scottish and British mainlands. Duncansby Head is located in Caithness, Highland, in north-eastern Scotland. The headland juts into […]
Visiting Duncansby Head lighthouse

Noss Head Lighthouse

Noss Head Lighthouse
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Doug Lee
The Noss Head Lighthouse is an active 19th-century lighthouse near Wick in Caithness in the Highland council area of Scotland. It is located at the end of Noss Head, a peninsula on the north-west coast of Caithness that overlooks Sinclairs Bay, three miles north-east of Wick. It is notable as being the first lighthouse that […]
Visiting Noss Head Lighthouse

Whaligoe Steps

Whaligoe Cliffs
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Glen Breaden
Whaligoe Haven is one of the most remarkable harbours to be found in Scotland – surrounded on three sides by 250 feet cliffs, and is reached by the Whaligoe Steps which zig-zag down the cliffside. The natural harbour at the foot of the steps has been a long standing landing point for herring, salmon, whitefish […]
Visiting Whaligoe Steps


Badbea Clearance Village
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Postdlf
The former clearance village of Badbea is perched on the edge of the cliffs south of Berriedale in a spot with great views over the Moray Firth. The village was settled in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by families evicted from their homes when the straths of Langwell, Ousdale and Berriedale were cleared […]
Visiting Badbea

Tours and Activities from Caithness