Last updated 1/7/21
These pages are constantly being updated. In the meantime please find quick links as follows:
click here for groceries, petrol and other useful local information
click here for places to eat
click here for things to do
Castles in Caithness: click here
Museums in Caithness: click here
Jo's Favourite free App: Vessel Finder Curious to know what the ship is you see in front of you? where it's going? where has it come from?
Karina's Favourite free App: Tides Near Me another free app if you want to know the low/high tide timetable.
The Crofter's Snug is in Caithness county which sits in the north east chunk of Northern Scotland; bordered to the west and the south by Sutherland county. Unlike the rest of the region we don't have a mountainous wilderness here. Instead, low peatlands make up the bulk of the county - it's all about big skies and the spectacular coastline really. Ancient castles haunt the cliffs, Neolithic remains are dotted around and there’s a pervading sense of wilderness which we love. Historically the Vikings have had more influence in the area than the Scottish clans (Thurso is Thors river, Brims Ness is Surf Point) etc.
The majority of visitors whizz round the NC500 but if you find yourself at The Crofter's Snug for more than a night or two, you'll be surprised at just how much there is to see and do in the area. We've earmarked the visitor attractions closest to us and will be adding to this page regularly as we become more and more familiar with the wider area ourselves so come back to check! Use the links below to find out more.
Oh, and remember, the sun shines more than is commonly perceived up here in the Highlands but it's true what they say - the weather can sometimes give you four seasons in a day so make sure you come prepared! Sturdy footwear, layers and a good coat will see you right. As Bob Hope once said whilst playing a round of golf.... "If you don't like the weather in Scotland, just wait 20 minutes" :-)
We have a couple of lovely walks direct from the site. Turn left and you can find yourself at the quiet shoreline below the Castle of Mey - a little further takes you to Harrow Harbour. Alternatively turn right and at the end you can walk through the moorland down to St John's Point - a favourite vantage point for spotting sea life crossing the firth. Click the More Info button for maps and details of other local walks. Enjoy!
There's also a website dedicated to the John O'Groats Trail at www.jogt.org.uk
Castle and Gardens of Mey
The Castle of Mey - built c. 1570 and home to The Queen Mother from 1952 until 1996 when it was gifted to the Trust - offers an insight to her wonderful life here in Caithness. In addition to the castle, you can tour the romantic walled garden, visit the animal centre or the gift shop and tea room which can be found in the visitor centre. Booking essential - see website for full details of days/opening times and visitor booking information.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, Wick
If castles are your thing, then maybe you'd also enjoy visiting Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. This one is a complete ruin though and located a 10 minute drive from the centre of Wick out towards the coast. There is a large car park then a 10 minute walk to the castle itself. It is located on the sea edge on the John O'Groats Trail. Another option would be to walk to it from Keiss beach. No charge for entry. Lots of info boards. It looks amazing in the sunshine and very atmospheric if the weather isn't being so kind! We love it.
North Coast Explorer
Our neighbours at North Coast Explorer offer bespoke tours going off the beaten track and bringing to life the history often missed on your standard excursions. North Coast Explorer can provide day tours of Caithness, as well as tours further afield, and are happy to tailor the day to suit your needs. Rob is an absolute fount of local knowledge! Booking in advance is essential.
A selfie with the iconic signpost is an absolute must! A ten minute drive away and free to visit 24/7. There is a Tourist Information/Visitor Centre, a car park, Post Office and small shop, a brewery, gift shops etc. Various eateries are open during the day. A footpath runs all the way from John O'Groats to Duncansby Head/Stacks.
It would be a shame to get as far as John O'Groats only to find out you'd missed out on the geological delight that forms the Duncansby Stacks. You can walk all the way from John O'Groats or drive the single track road behind the Seaview Hotel for a couple of miles to park at the lighthouse for a fabulous easy walk to the Stacks across the top of the cliffs. We first saw them on a misty day. Stunning - a 'must do' really!
A slight detour on your way to/from John O'Groats is well worth it for the array of breads and cakes etc Annie produces in her bakery. They are soooo delicious! Annie has created a sheltered cafe offering soups, sandwiches and more. Lots of Gluten Free yummies to be had too. Cafe open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday 10-2pm. We're getting lots of excellent feedback from guests :-). Make sure you use Google maps to find it - there's a windmill at their property if that helps!
Dunnet Beach - wow - it's vast! 2 miles long and only a 10-15 minute drive away. Dunnet Head is home to a lighthouse and an RSPB nature reserve and you'll find Dunnet Bay Distillery producing, amongst other labels, Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka. Dunnet Forest is a community woodland covering over 100 hectares with trails for all ages and abilities. And that's not all. For a tiny place there is a lot to do in Dunnet!
Dunnet Head Lighthouse/RSPB
Dunnet Head is a peninsular and the most northerly point of the Scottish mainland. The drive out to the lighthouse and RSPB Reserve is fabulous: beautiful and wild. It is home to razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes and it's where we saw our first puffin! There is free access but donations are welcome. Lots of space to ramble and enjoy the views from the car park at the top of the sheer cliff face - 105m above sea level!
Orkney by car:
Gills Bay to St Margarets Hope
If you have the time, then extending your road trip to include Orkney Mainland will make a fantastic memory. (Mainland is the name of the largest island in the Orkneys).One hour each way, Pentland Ferries operate from Gills Bay harbour less than 10 minutes from The Crofter's Snug. Two adults and a car (leaving 9.30am and returning 5pm) will cost c.£150. Check their website for confirmation of timetables, prices and further information.
Orkney by car: Scrabster to Stromness
The busy port of Stromness is Orkney’s main gateway. Dating from the 17th century, Stromness owes its origins to its excellent harbour. Today, visitors and residents alike can stroll through the cobbled streets enjoying the range of craft shops, views of the harbour and excellent dining opportunities. Northlink Ferries can also get you to the Shetland Islands. This was part of our amazing motorhome road trip in 2019 - see here.
Orkney by foot
If you'd prefer to take a break from driving, then John O'Groats Passenger Only Ferries offer wildlife cruises as well as coach tours of the island, or just travel as a foot passenger and take your bicycle! This crossing is only 40 minutes. Check out their website for further information. Operating 1st June - 30 September.
As mentioned above, wildlife cruises are offered by Pentland Ferries/Sea Watch Foundation. Enjoy one of their spectacular 90 minute afternoon cruises. Pass rugged cliff scenery and see arctic skuas, storm petrels, colonies of guillemots, puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, atlantic grey seals and much more! Check out the website for further information. 29 May to 31 Aug 2021. Daily @ 2.30pm daily from John O'Groats. Book online.
Would you like a different vantage point of the coastline? Caithness Seacoast Ltd was started in 2008 by local couple William and Adelaine Munro. The arrival of a new modern marina in Wick Harbour provided the inspiration to start their tour boat company. They operate 1st April to 31st October and offer various options to suit your budget and timetable. Family friendly, the boat seats 12 and is similar to new in-shore RNLI lifeboats. Excellent feedback from guests. Go on... book an adventure!
Fly Fishing St John's Loch
If you have time and the inclination to do a bit of fishing, then St John's Loch (5 miles away - towards Thurso) offers visitor tickets. All fishing on St John's Loch is by Fly only. There is no bag limit but all trout under 12" must be returned to the water as quickly as possible. The Season runs from April 1st to September 30th and this now includes Sunday Fishing. Open
Further info regarding fishing in Caithness can be found at www.caithness.org/fishing/
If sea fishing is your thing, then check out www.britishseafishing.co.uk/east-coast-of-scotland/
You might be surprised to find that Thurso is known worldwide for it's surf. Northcoast Watersports run the majority of their lessons from Dunnet Bay which is only 15 minutes away. The instructors are very experienced and fully ISA trained. Iona is the current ladies Scottish Champion and Finn is a previous Under 18s champion. Go on.... give it a go - you know you've always wanted to!
For big kids, little kids and animal lovers everywhere! Puffin Croft Petting Farm is on the road opposite the Post Office in John O'Groats and has been awarded a 3-star Visit Scotland visitor attraction and as one reviewer said, "it's a lovely place to bring the kids to spend time with friendly animals and good value for money. There's also a little shop to buy fresh veggies and homemade food stuff."
Castlehill Hertitage Centre
To find out more about the history of our nearest village and its surrounding area, then a visit to this community run heritage centre is a must. Themed exhibitions are held throughout the year featuring the history, heritage, biodiversity and social history of Castletown (often referred to as the flagstone village) and the parish of Olrig. It is located within renovated seventeenth century farm buildings. Open Sundays 1.30-4.30pm.
Mary Ann's Cottage
Not far off the road near Dunnet, this traditional croft build c.1850 was lived in for most of her life by Mary-Ann Calder until 1990. The cottage has been preserved and is very much as it was in the 1930's. It's now owned by the Caithness Heritage Trust who provide guided tours of the cottage from June to September from 2pm to 4.30pm (closed on Mondays). There is a small charge for viewing the croft..
Newfield Farm Equine Adventures
Fully licensed and insured riding stables, offering on and offsite hacking and lessons, with horses to suit all abilities. The following is from a Facebook review: "Had the most incredible bucket list beach ride!! Kirsty is so friendly, professional and accommodating and went out of her way to give me the day of my dreams! Beautiful, loved horses and an amazing location, highly recommended for total novices to experienced riders....."
Liquid Footprints Adventures
Liquid Footprints offer a wide range of adventure activities in the Scottish Highlands on the NC500 for both adults and families. All sessions are tailored made to you and your group and where ever possible they try to run sessions near to where you are staying. Canoeing (including dog friendly!), Sea Kayaking, Gorge Scrambling, Mountain Guiding, Pic-nics. Visit their website to find out more. Or click the link to the NC500 blog here
NC500 Official Website
Lots of info with an interactive map to help plan your adventure.. The History, Heritage and Archaeology and the Luxury itinerary are available to view fully, however to unlock the full NC500 itineraries, you will need to become a member. Membership starts from just £15 a year and each package offers a range of key benefits and exclusive deals to get the most of your NC500 holiday.
15 minutes away you'll find Dunnet Bay Distillers who make Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka and offer a visitor experience at varying times for c.£10pp (age 8+) - closed Sundays.
Located approx. 15 minutes south of Wick in the village of Sarclet, Laura and Pauline offer various activities. Their c.90 minute Alpaca Experience (adults and children age 10+) involves a short introduction to Alpacas, meeting and interacting with them, followed by a trek along the nearby beautiful coastline, rounded up with a photo opportunity. For our younger enthusiasts, Alpacamapicnic may be more suitable.