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3 great days out in Caithness and Sutherland

Our guide to a thrilling time in Scotland's far north.

Duncansby Head in Caithness, Scotland.
The beautiful Duncansby Head is just one reason to visit Caithness.

Caithness and Sutherland are magical parts of Scotland. With their ruggedly beautiful scenery, historic homes, adventurous activities and, of course, fine whisky, they’re a must-see destination.

The best part is that, with one-way flights from Aberdeen to Wick starting at just £54.99, when you book direct through Eastern Airways, they’re incredibly easy to get to.

But how do you make the most of your time in this enchanting area?

We’ve picked out a selection of things to do on three great days out in Caithness and Sutherland, using Wick as your base. Take your pick of our recommendations or pack everything into one thrilling day. There’s stunning scenery, delicious local cuisine, arts, crafts, history and adventure. So read on and start dreaming of the perfect getaway.

Day out west

Castle Varrich in Caithness, Scotland.
Castle Varrich is a delightful and scenic spot to visit on your trip. Pic: Venture North

First up is an action-packed day out west. Starting from Wick, drive through to Thurso and then continue West through some of the most stunning coastal scenery that Scotland has to offer. After about two and a half hours you’ll arrive in Durness.

Once there, the first thing you should do is see everything on offer at Balnakeil Craft Village. It’s home to a range of local artists and businesses. You can enjoy everything from paintings and wood turning to a massage here, so the only issue will be spending too much time to enjoy all the other delights your day has to offer.

Once you’ve finished at Balnakeil, there’s a whole host of other things to pack into your day. A great idea is to take a ferry or minibus trip to Cape Wrath, the most northerly point in Scotland.

You should also try to fit in a visit to the enchanting Smoo Cave. There’s a walkway that’s free to access or you can venture deeper with a short boat tour.

If you’re feeling adventurous try the Golden Eagle zipline, or if history is your thing then you might want to stop at Loch Eriboll for the Ard Neackie Lime Kilns and to see the site of surrender of the 33 surviving German U-boats at the end of World War Two.

Return leg delights

Heading back towards Wick, stop off in Tongue for a late lunch – a warm welcome awaits at the Brass Tap in the Tongue Hotel or try Loch Eriboll Langoustines at the Ben Loyal.

Then it’s just a short walk from the town to Castle Varrich.

If that’s got your appetite back up you could try hidden gem The Store in Bettyhill, which offers a range of hearty main meals along with fresh baked goods.

Or you could take the opportunity to stop in Thurso and explore the fantastic food offering there, with fine dining at Bydand, tapas with Scottish twist at Capilla or seafood at the Captain’s Galley.

Alternatively, you could just head back to Wick for an evening meal and a nightcap in your hotel. You’ll nod off thinking of how Caithness has some of the best sights in Scotland.

Day in Wick

Wick Harbour, Caithness, Scotland
The beautiful views over Wick Harbour are just one reason to visit the town.

A day out in Wick promises a delightful blend of history, adventure and culinary delights.

Kickstart your day with a coastal tour courtesy of Caithness Seacoast. From half-hour mini tours to extensive three-hour adventures, there’s something for everyone. For a taste of the rugged coastline, opt for the 1.5-hour coastal expedition to the renowned Whaligoe Steps, a marvel of engineering nestled amidst breath-taking cliffs.

After immersing yourself in nature’s grandeur, delve into Wick’s rich heritage at the Wick Heritage Museum. Once the largest herring fishing port in Europe, Wick’s history comes alive through captivating exhibits and interactive displays.

For connoisseurs of fine spirits, a tour of the Old Pulteney Distillery is a must-do. Sample award-winning whiskies, including multiple World’s Best winners, as you uncover the secrets of traditional Scottish whisky-making.

Come lunchtime, Wick spoils you with an array of dining options. Whether you crave French delicacies, Italian pizzas or hearty traditional fare, the town has it all. For a taste of the countryside, venture to Puldagon Farm Shop & Restaurant and savour an ever-changing seasonal menu crafted from locally sourced ingredients.

Afternoon of adventure

Once you’ve filled up on delicious delicacies, t’s time to take in one of Wick’s iconic castles. Choose between the imposing Castle of Old Wick or the picturesque Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, both steeped in centuries of Scottish history.

Then if you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to take a dip in one of Wick’s historic sea-fed outdoor swimming pools, such as the North Baths or the Trinkie, lauded by The Times as one of the UK’s best sea swimming pools.

As the day winds down, indulge in Wick’s vibrant dining scene. From casual bar meals to exclusive dining events, there’s something to satisfy every palate. For a unique culinary experience, venture to The Printers Rest for Maltese-inspired cuisine or join the Secret Shebeen Supperclub for an unforgettable evening of gastronomy.

Day up north

Golden sands and surf in Caithness, Scotland
The golden sands and surf are a highlight of the area. Pic: North Coast Watersports

Our final day out takes us north, for outdoor escapades and culinary delights.

For the adventurous souls, a journey to Keiss to conquer the final stage of the John O’Groats Trail awaits. Traverse rugged landscapes and coastal cliffs on this exhilarating hike, reserved for experienced walkers seeking an adrenaline rush.

Alternatively, unleash your inner water enthusiast with surf and stand-up paddle lessons offered by North Coast Watersports at Dunnet Bay. After mastering the waves, unwind with a leisurely stroll through Dunnet Forest, adorned with captivating artworks and sculptures.

Recharge your batteries with a delectable meal at Northern Sands. Then make sure you swing by Dunnet Bay Distillers, home to the award-winning Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka.

Of course, no visit to the area is complete without a trip to the iconic John O’Groats, Scotland’s most northerly mainland town. Capture the moment with a picture at the famous signpost before venturing to Duncansby Head, where majestic sea stacks punctuate the horizon, marking the true most northerly point on the mainland.

Once there, you can satisfy your cravings at Café Groats, the Seaview Hotel, or Stacks Deli, Bakery, and Coffee House. Indulge your sweet tooth with a scoop of ice cream from Flavours. Or embark on a tasting journey at the 8 Doors Distillery, the region’s newest kid on the whisky block.

On your journey back to Wick, make sure you stop off at Reiss Beach. This hidden gem boasts golden sands and azure waters, a perfect conclusion to your adventure in Caithness, the pride of Scotland.

So what’s stopping you? It’s time to book that flight and start enjoying the wonders of Caithness and Sutherland. We promise you won’t regret it.