If it’s wilderness and history you want, you’ve chosen the right area! With its open landscape and ruined cottages, nowhere are the Highland Clearances more evident. Strathnaver Museum gives a fascinating history of the Norse and Gaelic ancestry which shaped this sparsely populated region.
Now, you’ve all heard of John O’Groats, but did you know that Dunnet Head is in fact the most northerly point of the Scottish Mainland? A visit to the north would not be complete without a visit to see the vast array of sea cliff bird such as puffins, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags and cormorants!
The east coast of this area also has its fair share of historical attractions shaped by its turbulent relationship with the sea, perfectly illustrated by Whaligoe Steps – all 365 of them, descending to the harbour below. In the early 1800’s fisherwomen (some beyond a free bus pass!), first gutted, then carried, baskets of herring and salt up the steps and on foot to Wick, 7 miles away to market.
Leaving by ferry, you now head off to the land of the Simmer Dim and Neolithic archaeology. Orkney is made up of 70 islands, 20 of which are still inhabited. Orcadians (we love that name!) have a distinct and vibrant cultural history. Tradition is kept alive through the many festivals, regattas and shows which incorporate wine, art & crafts, food, agriculture and ceilidhs!
With so much going on, you will need to make time to visit famous landmarks such as Old Man of Hoy, 5,000 year old Skara Brae, St Magnus Chapel and the unusual and impressive Italian Chapel.
Getting this far north and not visiting the Global Geopark of the Shetland Islands would be a crime! Boasting over 100 islands, there is no shortage of wildlife, scenery and archaeological sites.
Famous of course for Fair Isle jumpers and Shetland Ponies (which sometimes go together!) it also has its own unique way of celebrating tradition. The Up Helly Aa is an annual event where participants, many dressed as Vikings, burn a Viking Boat. It certainly makes for a memorable evening!