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Things to See & Do in the Northern Highlands

The Northern Highlands are as stunningly unique and beautiful as they are wild and untamed. Castle ruins tell many a tale, the lochs and beaches are bountiful and the mountains rise to command the skyline.  

Wonderful local folk museums are aplenty and the Highland clearance villages must be seen to be truly understood. Boat trips to see puffins and whales can be found all around the northern coastline, along with villages offering the very best of local food and crafts.  

If you are visiting to do the North Coast 500, we would like to suggest you take your time and go off-piste! Many amazing local businesses and attractions are to be found off the main route and you really don’t want to miss out. Wonderful local craft co-operatives, ice-cream parlours, seafood restaurants and friendly accommodation all await you.

 

Timespan Museum, Gallery, Gardens, Gift Shop & Café – Helmsdale, Sutherland

Award winning museum, activities and events

t: +44 (0)1431 821327 | Website
e: enquiries@timespan.org.uk | Facebook

Find out more about Timespan Museum, Gallery, Gardens, Gift Shop & Café

This award winning museum takes you back in time to learn about the Picts and their beautiful carved stones, local folklore and stories, the gold rush of 1869 and there is even a reconstructed croft, byre, smithy, and shop from 150 years ago. But that’s not all! You really do have to visit to appreciate the vast range on offer.

With events throughout the year, activities and puzzles for the wee ones, a storytelling room and even the change to meet the last wolf, this is more than just a museum – it’s a way of life, past, present and future. After hours of intrigue, information and fun, you can visit the gardens, gift shop and tea room for a well-deserved cake!

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cape wrath

Cape Wrath Walk & Lighthouse

Built in 1828, Cape Wrath Lighthouse is now registered as a building of architectural and historic interest. Cape Wrath is the most north-westerly point of the British Isles. The area is uninhabited, wild and rugged.

NW Sutherland Geopark

NW Sutherland Geopark

The North West Highlands Geopark is located in the far north of the Scottish Mainland. It covers 2,000 sq km of mountains, forests, sandy beaches, ancient settlements, moors and coastline. From the Summer Isles in Wester Ross to beyond Durness in the east. Visit the Geopark website for comprehensive details of how to get there and things to do in this area.

dun dornaigil broch

Dun Dornaigil Broch

Half way between Altnaharra and the tiny settlement of Hope you can find this Iron Age dry stone tower. It is one of the best preserved brochs in the north of Scotland, one of its most interesting features is the huge triangular lintel stone above what would have been the entrance.

balnakeil church

Balnakeil Church & Cemetery

The church was built in 1619 on the foundation of an older church that was here during the crusades and was abandoned in the mid-1800s when the present day church was built.

Entrance to Smoo Cave

Smoo Caves

Smoo cave is the largest coastline cave in the UK. At 200ft long, 130ft wide and 50ft high, entry to the outer cave is free and open all year round. The cave is of great geological and historical significance, and well worth a visit.  Located 2 km east of the village of Durness the cave is served by a car park and toilets. During the summer visitors can take tours of the inner chamber by boat.

ardvreck castle

Ardvreck Castle

A 16th century ruined castle in a stunning location not far from the main road north of Inchnadamph, built in 1590/91 by the MacLeods who owned Assynt since the 13th century.

clachtoll broch

Clachtoll Broch

Clachtoll Broch is one of the finest Iron Age settlements in Scotland and lies on a rocky outcrop across the bay from the village of Stoer.

stoer head lighthouse

Stoer Head Lighthouse

12 miles north of Lochinver on a remote rocky outcrop lies this impressive lighthouse built in 1870 by members of the Stevenson family.

sandwood bay

Sandwood Bay

One of the most scenic beaches in the area but also one with a long history of strange phenomena including ghostly sightings and a haunted bothy.  For hundreds of years the bay has been known as a haunt of the mermaids, they have been reported in the area as late as the 19th century.

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Durness Visitor Centre

The visitor centre is the base for the Highland Council countryside ranger. You will find displays of natural history artefacts, information on the local wildlife, geology, archaeology, display of highland crofting life. There are souvenirs, books, maps local crafts etc. Information on local events and children’s activities. Please check the website for opening hours/days.

carbisdale trails

Carbisdale Mountain Bike Trails

These 2 mountain biking trails are just south of Lairg and lie either side of the of the Kyle. Set amongst breathtaking scenery, the terrain covered will test the most proficient of rider.
Carbisdale mountain bike trails form part of the Kyle of Sutherland Trails. The blue trail is 1.5 miles and great for intermediate riders. The red trail is 3 miles long with more technical and steeper descents.  Although relatively short trails, they offer a challenging ride from a technical and fitness view.

bone caves

Bone Caves at Allt Nan Uamh

The Bone caves are located within a site of special scientific interest. These cave were created thousands of years before the last ice age. There are 3 main cave entrances with Lynx and Polar Bear skulls being discovered here over a hundred years ago. The walk to the caves from the car park is approximately 2.75 miles, taking around 2 hours to complete.

knockan crag

Knockan Crag and Visitor Centre

Knockan Crag is a series of cliffs designated as a National Nature Reserve, and is situated within the north west highlands Geopark. It features one of the oldest landscapes in Europe.
Facilities include a car park, toilets, visitor centre and trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
Knockan Visitor Centre interprets the ‘big picture’ of the landscape at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve and the surrounding area.

inverpolly

Inverpolly National Nature Reserve

Formed in 1961 by combining three estates – Inverpolly, Drumrunie and Eisg Brachaidh – and at nearly eleven thousand hectares, this is the second largest reserve in Britain after the Cairngorms.
Within the Inverpolly Nature Reserve are is the convoluted Loch Sionascaig, and its neighbours to the north Loch Veyatie and Fionn Loch.
Spectacular wilderness canoeing in Scotland, through remote and uninhabited country. This is challenging terrain, involving portages and long paddling sessions, but the rewards include superb mountain scenery, camping on deserted islands, and unparalleled tranquillity.
Also popular for road cycling with wild scenery, narrow roads and mountain views.

falls of shin

Falls of Shin

See the salmon leap up Shin Falls from the viewpoint and enjoy the beautiful woodland walks at Achany! The new community-owned Falls of Shin visitor centre opened in May 2017 so you can browse the shop and get some lunch after enjoying the scenery!

big burn waterfall

Big Burn Waterfall Walk

Start at Golspie for this sheltered walk through a secretive gorge to a waterfall.

carn liath broch

Carn Liath Broch

This Iron Age dry stone tower is one of the best preserved in the country and can be found about a mile north of Dunrobin Castle next to the A9.

altimarlach

Altimarlach

The site of the last clan battle fought in Scotland between the Sinclairs and the Campbells in 1680.

dirlot castle

Dirlot Castle

This ruined castle was constructed in the first half of the 14th century and is situated next to a beautiful gorge a short walk down Thurso River.

Thurso surf

Surfing

Thurso is a popular area for surfing, and a premier heavy cold surf destination which hosts surfing championships, including two World Championships for Kayak surfing. The plentiful reefs, points, river mouths and beaches, on top of the consistent year-round surfing opportunities, make the location a paradise for water sports lovers.

caithness horizons

Caithness Horizons

Caithness Horizons is a visitor attraction located in Thurso, with a museum, gallery, shop and cafe.  Caithness Horizons houses a permanent collection that tells the story of the county of Caithness from 416 million years ago to the present day including the Picts, the Vikings and the history of the Dounreay Nuclear Research Establishment. The museum has permanent exhibits along with a changing annual gallery programme.  Please check opening times before visiting.

seadrift-450

Seadrift, Dunnet

The Seadrift visitor centre is located at the far end of the beach at Dunnet Bay.  There are binoculars and a telescope available to spot the birds and wildlife along the shore and surrounding area.  Seadrift is the base for the Highland Councils countryside rangers. There are activities for children, and displays about the geology and history of Dunnet.  Please check the website for opening hours before visiting.

castle-aerial-south

Castle Sinclair, Girnigoe

Open May to September, Castle Sinclair, Girnigoe, is one of the most spectacular ruins in the North of Scotland. It is approximately 3 miles north of Wick on the east coast of Caithness.  Set on the edge of the cliffs just a short walk from the lighthouse at Noss Head. There are information boards leading to the Castle, and lovely grounds for a picnic.

Scotland_Carn_Liath_Broch_3

Carn Liath Broch

Carn Liath Broch stands on a terrace overlooking the shore, and is 1 of approximately 500 Brochs built in Scotland. There are signs of a small settlement surrounding the Broch.  A Broch is a fortification only found in Scotland. They were dry stone structures formed of 2 concentric walls with a narrow entrance passage at ground level and small cells.  Located off the A9, 3 miles east of Golspie.

forsinard flows

Forsinard Flows RSPB Centre

Best in Summer when golden plovers, hen harriers and greenshanks breed. The visitor centre is free and has a selection of activities for children.

yarrows archaeological trail

Yarrows Archaeological Trail

The moorlands south of the Loch of Yarrows are rich in archaeological remains. A waymarked walk south of the Loch of Yarrows that takes in a large number of  bronze-age chambered cairns and an iron-age broch.

Clan_Gunn_Heritage_Centre

Clan Gunn Heritage Centre

The Clan Gunn Heritage Centre & Museum is housed in the Old Latheron Parish Church, originally built in the years around 1730.

Whaligoe Steps

Whaligoe Steps

A spectacular man-made stairway with over 350 steps that descend a sheer cliff face to a harbour that was once a landing place for fishing boats.

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Swim the Snorkel Trail

The Scottish Wildlife Trust set up Scotland’s first snorkel trail in the north west, and provide guidance and gear to rent if needed.

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Hermit’s Castle, Achmelvich

An unusual structure built in 1950 by an English architect – who left the area after staying only a few nights in the ‘castle’!