Off the beaten track: Dunbeath Strath

Early in October, we took ourselves on a bit of exploration of Dunbeath. Whilst I have already visited the stunning Dunbeath Castle Gardens earlier on in the year, I had not ventured to the northern side of the river which flows out into the north sea. One of these small fishing villages that are dotted all the way down the eastern coastline of the NC500, Dunbeath has a heritage trail along the Strath which is a treasure trove of stunning scenery and iron-age history.


A well-preserved broch (you can see others in the Caithness area on this list from the Caithness Broch Project), which is an easy 10 minute walk from the old mill car park and picnic area just off the western side of the A9. The Caithness Broch Project are doing some great work to educate and inform people about these iron-age structures and to give an insight into society structures during this time.

You do have to cross quite a wobbly wooden suspension bridge over the water to get to it and continue the walk inland along the Strath, but the exertion is well worth it!


The autumn colours were out in force, and we spoke to locals who were filling their pockets with a harvest of hazelnuts from trees along the path.

The strath undulates a little until the Prisoners Leap gorge, when the walk then goes uphill and into the moorland. Before this though we turned back as we wanted to leave time to walk back to the harbour.

We followed up our walk along the strath with a stroll down to the coastline of the village.

Dunbeath was the birthplace of celebrated Highland writer, Neil Gunn. Some of his most famous works include ‘The Silver Darlings’ and ‘Morning Tide’, but it is his work ‘Highland River’ which takes a pilgrimage along the Dunbeath strath to its source. I’m definitely going to try and find a novel of his to read from the local library. This statue commemorates his contribution to Scottish literature in the 20th century. The local Heritage Centre (open April-September) looks a good place for stopping in to explore the history of Dunbeath in more depth!


Lybster,has a beautiful harbour complete with lighthouse and Waterlines Heritage Centre which is open during peak season. It’s 15 minutes drive south from Wick.

Portskerra is on the north coast, behind Melvich. Take the turning down by the Melvich Hotel!