#1 Wick

Wick, a place for some strange reason many bypass on-route to JohnO’Groats or Inverness depending if they are heading North or South.

Wick, the capital of Caithness has so much to offer and so much to see and do.  It is the perfect place to use as a base to explore this Northernmost County.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is a 10-minute drive from the Town.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, despite its ruined state, is one of the best surviving and unchanged examples of a late medieval/early modern fortified complex to survive anywhere in Scotland.

Should you Visit? ….definitely.

Wick Heritage Centre is possibly one of the Best Museums in the Highlands. The Museum is like an Aladdin’s Cave of the History and Culture of the Town and its People.

A Real fascinating place that has something for everyone.

Old Pulteney Distillery is one of the Most Northern Distilleries in the Uk Mainland and is definitely worth the time be you a whisky drinker or not.

The maritime malt distilled and matured by the sea. They have been distilling Whisky at this location since 1826 and the whisky owes much to the merits of the casks in which it matures, where they use both American oak ex-bourbon and Spanish oak ex-sherry casks.

It is certainly not to be missed.


More Info : Castle Sinclair Girnigoe – Wick Heritage Centre – Old Pulteney Distillery

#2 Grey Cairns of Camster

The Grey Cairns of Camster are a 25-minute drive from Wick and really should be on everyone list.

Parking at this location is very limited so be aware.

The Cairns are over 5,000 years old and are among the oldest structures in Scotland. They consist of two large Neolithic chambered cairns and you can access, (if you wish) the burial chambers in the centre of the cairns, although you need to be fit and nimble to squeeze through but watch you don’t meet a sheep on its way out

A really fascinating place and certainly worth a visit.

More Info: Camster Cairns

Camster Cairns

#3 Whaligoe Steps

Whaligoe Steps are surrounded on three sides by 250ft cliffs and forms one of the most remarkable harbours you will find.

To get there you have 365 steps to negotiate to get to the bottom.

Whilst doing the steps, remember that women did this nigh-on a  daily basis carrying baskets off newly landed Fish from the Boats before taking them on foot to be sold in nearby Wick, some 8 miles away.

There is a small parking area above the top of the steps but be mindful there are residents that need access.

The Whaligoe Steps Cafe, a popular restaurant, is at the top of the Steps, but keep the Cafe until you get back up, you may need a refreshment by then.

Be very careful navigating the steps as the steps can be slippery in wet weather, and there is no safety net.

More Info : Whaligoe Steps


#4 Laidhay Croft Museum

Laidhay Croft Museum is a two-hundred-year-old rush thatched Caithness longhouse and is a typical example of the older style of Caithness Croft.

With its own tearoom that helps make it even better allowing you to stop and refresh at the same time.

When you visit the Laidhay Museum you note that the longhouse style building included all the family’s amenities under one roof.

The building itself is 105 feet long and includes the stable on one end and a byre (barn) on the other.

There is so much here and it really tells the story of how life was back in the 1800s and how life was in this remote area of Caithness.

The Highlands are blessed with great Museums and Laidhay is certainly one of them

Visit Site: Laidhay Croft Museum

Laidhay Croft Museum

#5 Dunbeath Heritage Museum

Dunbeath Heritage Museum Allows you to discover the heritage, history and culture of Dunbeath and the world-famous author Neil M Gunn.

More Info : Dunbeath Heritage Museum

#6 Badbae Historical Village

Badbae , There has been much written about the clearances and virtually every part of the Highlands and its Villages have their own story to tell.

There are quite a few monuments dotted throughout the Highlands.

Some of the descendants still to this day, feel personally affected by the clearances of their own folk and the hardship, poverty and death that their ancestors endured.

Badbea is a place where you can go and visit and take time to reflect on how we as a nation could do so much to so many of our Own for ones own greed and benefit.

Badbea is a haunting site of a now-abandoned settlement.
Though beautiful, it can be a windswept and bleak spot.

When you visit, it is hard to think families with children and their cattle lived here in all weathers.

Badbea (pronounced bad-bay), is perched on the steep slopes above the cliff tops at Berridale.

More Information: Badbae Highland


#7 Helmsdale

Helmsdale  A Village steeped in History, from a Gold Rush to the Highland Clearances this area has much to tell and lots to See and Do.

Timespan museum tells the local and social history of the parish and people, taking you on a journey from the sea and river mouth, upstream and inland to the Strath of Kildonan

It also covers the boom and bust of the herring fishing industry; the dark historic period of change of the Highland Clearances; the brief but feverish 1869 gold rush; the shameful burning of the last witch in Sutherland and much more.

The Emigrants Monument stands in Couper Park on the south side of the River Helmsdale and overlooking the village.

The Statue has a very powerful albeit sad for what had happened.

When you look at the monument you notice the man is tense and, anxious but determined.

The boy is looking to his father for guidance, but at the same time he is ready for adventure.

The Woman, holding her newborn child, looks back longingly at the familiar place she is leaving.

Visit Helmsdale ? Certainly.

More Info: Helmsdale

#8 Clynelish Distillery

Clynelish Distillery The original Clynelish distillery was built in 1819, adjacent to the present operational Clynelish distillery which was built in 1967. 

Following closure in 1983, Brora whisky has become one of the rarest and desired whiskies in the world, costing around one and a half thousand pounds a bottle.

Brora’s latest, and last release of the original spirit is in their bi-centenary bottling, to celebrate the 200 years of the distillery being in production.

If you visit one distillery on your trip then this has to be nigh on top of your list.

More Info :  Clynelish Distillery  

Brora Heritage Centre

#9 Brora Heritage Centre

Brora Heritage Centre is more than just a visitors centre. Like many that you find on the route, it is worth a wee visit.

Brora itself has much to offer and great to use as a base.

The Heritage Centre is a place to learn the history behind this area and with so many stories to tell it is a definite to take in on your visit.

The staff here are very knowledgable so feel free to ask questions.  The Centre has gone from strength to strength showing how popular it has become.

More Info : Brora Heritage Centre

#10 Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle Possibly the most visited place North of Inverness.

Dunrobin Castle is a stately home in Sutherland and the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland.

The earliest part of the building dates from around 1275 and has a number of later extensions.

From stunning Gardens to Falconry Displays this is much more than just a stately Home.

Your tour begins at the main staircase, which leads to the staterooms on the first floor.

These include the Dining Room, set with the family silver, and our Library which has over 10,000 books and way Much More.

The Tearoom and Gift Shop can be found on the ground floor. Access to the Gardens is from the Entrance Hall.

More Info : Dunrobin Castle

Dornoch Cathedral
Embo Beach

#11 Dornoch

Dornoch One of our favourite places on the Route.

Dornoch has it all and is a great place for either a holiday or exploring the route using it as a base.

From a fantastic Beach Caravan Site, Shops, Cathedral and one of the oldest Golf courses in the World. It just has it all.

The Witches Stone in a garden of a cottage in Littletown, on the way to Dornoch beach, stands a small stone marked with the year 1722. This is known as the Witch’s Stone and marks the spot where the last execution in Scotland for witchcraft took place.

It is also called the Janet Horne Memorial Stone. 

`Embo is a tiny wee village and featured in the TV Series, Best Village in the UK. With a wonderful Beach Embo is well worth a 10-minute drive to.

Situated near Loch Fleet, it has great walks among the Sand dunes with plenty of Birdlife in abundance.

Dornoch Cathedral is virtually the centrepiece of the town with the Castle opposite it is more than just a place to visit.

The Catheral was originally built in the 13th century, in the reign of King Alexander II. It has a long history and many stories to tell.

It has been used by the rich and famous where Madonna married Guy Ritchie and even Elon Musk from Space X also married here.

Dornoch really is a Must for all

More Info:  Witches Stone : Embo Dornoch Cathedral

#12 Falls of Shin

The Falls of Shin  is famous for being one of the best places in Scotland to view salmon leaping upstream. 

The best time to spot the salmon is between May – September.

Every year, the fish return from the open ocean, swimming up the Dornoch Firth and the Kyle of Sutherland to try to reach further up the River Shin to where they were spawned. However, before they reach their destination they must pass the powerful torrent of water at the Falls.
Standing on the viewing platform you can watch the salmon as they try to leap clear of the water. Some manage to pass on their first attempt while others have to jump again and again. 

With the Visitors Centre and Woodland Walks, Shop and Restaurant it has plenty to keep you occupied.

Should it be on your List ?

Of course it should be.

More Info : Falls Of Shin

Falls of Shin Centre
Falls of Shin
Bonar Bridge

#13 Bonar Bridge

Bonar Bridge is a great Wee Place that is off the NC 500 route. We believe not to use the bridges across the Firths but use the Real Roads that allow you to see and experience much more.

Bonar Bridge is the Gateway to even more scenic drives inland to fabulous places like Lairg, Invercassley and the Struie Hill Viewpoint.

With the New Bridges, it has meant many places like Bonar have become much less visited and few consider the possibilities what the area has to offer as a destination in its own right.

It is a great wee place for a bit of shopping or even a longer and more peaceful stay to explore this fantastic area.

More Info : Bonar Bridge

#14 Glenmorangie Distillery

Glenmorangie Distillery is to most folk one of the most famous whisky in the World.

Like most Distilleries, they all have a story to tell.

Legends tell that alcoholic beverages of one kind or another were produced in and around Tain since the Middle Ages.

According to the Glenmorangie Company, the earliest record of the production of alcohol at Morangie Farm is dated 1703. In the 1730s a brewery was built on the site that shared the farm’s water source, the Tarlogie Spring. A former distillery manager, William Matheson, acquired the farm in 1843 and converted the Morangie brewery to a distillery,

This is possibly one of the Most visited Distilleries in the Highlands and once you have done a tour and enjoyed a wee nip, you’ll realise why.

More Info : Glenmorangie Distillery

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse
Fearn Abbey

#15 Tarbat Ness Peninsula

Tarbat Ness Peninsula is an area to the East as you drive from Invergordon to Tain, a place many on the NC500 miss entirely but to us, it would be foolish to do so.

The Tarbat Ness Peninsula is an area with so much to see and do, it would be easy to spend days there and still not cover all it has to offer.

Mermaid of the North sits just to the east of the wee village of Balintore, great if you need accommodation. 

Steve Hayward, from Hilton, sculpted the 10ft bronzed wood mermaid statue in 2007, the Highland Year of Culture.

The Mermaid of the North is part of the area’s Seaboard Sculpture Trail, which includes several other sculptures related to the sea, such as three giant salmon and three slate monuments.

In 2012 the mermaid was damaged by a severe storm. Originally made from wood and resin, she was not strong enough to withstand the stormy weather. In 2014 the mermaid was replaced with a bronze cast model

Tarbat Discovery Centre is a fascinating building with an intriguing story set in a beautiful location away from the hustle & bustle of the A9 and the regular tourist routes.

The Museum unravels some of the mysteries of the Picts, explaining through its award winning archaeology programme fascinating details about these enigmatic people and their way of life on this intensely historic peninsula.

Fearn Abbey – known as “The Lamp of the North” – has its origins in one of Scotland’s oldest pre-Reformation church buildings.

Fearn Abbey was founded at Fearn by the Earl of Ross in 1225. But not at this Fearn: rather at the hamlet of that name on the south side of the Dornoch Firth between Bonar Bridge and Edderton.

The Abbey relocated the 15 miles or so to its current site on much better agricultural land in 1238.

On Sunday 10 October 1742 the church was struck by lightning during a service and the stone-flagged roof collapsed on the congregation, killing as many as 50.

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse There are many Lighthouses around the Route and to us this is one of the Best as it stands gazing out to the North Sea. It was built in 1830 by Robert Stevenson and has an elevation of 53 metres and 203 steps to the top of the tower.

This whole area of The Tarbat Peninsula is one many miss, to us it is one place full of Gems.

More Info : Mermaid of the North  : Tarbat Discovery Centre  : Fearn Abbey : Tarbat Ness Lighthouse

#16 Cromarty

(Unfortunate an error on the Map Reverse shows this as Fort Goerge. We apologies for this)

Cromarty  A Popular place in a Popular area of the Black Isle’

There is much to see and do in this area and like many place son the Route anywhere here is ideal to make a base and explore this exciting place.

Chanonry Point Possibly one of the most popular places and not just for the Lighthouse.

This is the No1 stop for Dolphin Spotting in the Moray Firth. 

The best time to see them is usually on a rising tide. From around 1 hour after low tide, the tide turns and dolphins start to chase fish in. 

Cromarty Lighthouse Situated in the wee Village of Cromarty and well worth a visit. The Lighthouse was built by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson, and operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board from 1842 until it was decommissioned in 2005.

Overlooking John Smeaton’s 18th-century harbour, the Lighthouse Tower, Keeper’s Cottage and Old Buoy Store are now used for marine research and teaching by the University of Aberdeen.

Clootie Well Munlochy is supposed to be a healing well and was dedicated to St Boniface (or Curidan). There is said to have once been a chapel on the site.

In Scots, a “clootie” or “cloot” is a strip of cloth or rag.

There are woodland walks in the area which is managed by the Forestry Commission Scotland.

Fairy Glen is a terrific area for walks and has two waterfalls. The Walks are great and the waterfalls are well worth the effort. Birdlife can vary so keep an eye out for buzzards circling overhead or a grey heron stalking fish along the glittering stream. 

More Info : Chanonry Point :  Cromarty Lighthouse: Clootie Well : Fairy Glen


#17 Chanonry Point

Chanonry Point is one of the best spots in the UK to view bottlenose dolphin from the land.

The dolphins are often visible off Chanonry point, particularly on an incoming tide when they play and fish in the strong currents.

Other wildlife, including porpoises and grey seals, can also regularly be spotted. 

The Ness is home to two camping and caravan sites towards the north. Most of the promontory is taken up by Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club.

Due to the popularity of the dolphins at Chanonry Point, the parking area and roads leading up to the beach have become more and more congested during the summer months, causing concerns amongst local residents.


More Info : Chanonry Point

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