This post has been written leaning heavily on the knowledge and information provided by the Discover Thurso project, as well as my own explorations of Thurso!
Thurso is the most northerly town on the UK mainland, and is one of two main settlements in the county of Caithness. Our little county suffers from 'passing-through' syndrome by visitors touring the North Coast 500, and Discover Thurso are doing their best to shout louder about the amazing attractions Caithness has, and to encourage visitors to consider Thurso a holiday destination in its own right! While the north and east coasts of the route doesn't have the same dramatic scenery of the West Coast, it still has many hidden gems and some stunning scenery - you just have to be willing to take a slower pace and be ready to go off the route!
Discover Thurso have done the hard work and produced their own feature-packed guide to Thurso (and other attractions in Caithness are included too), so my post is really an extension of this - with mentions of things I have done, or are on my list to do, see, eat or drink here! Way back in April I also attended a free tourism workshop run by Thurso Community Development Trust which gave me the idea of writing this post.
One of the very first things I did when we moved up to Caithness was doing the Wolfburn Whisky distillery tour. In the depths of winter, we got discounted tickets as production wasn't in process. The aroma of maturing whisky in the warehouses will stay with me, even though I'm not a drinker of the stuff (for Gin, see my visit of the nearby Dunnet Bay Distillery).
There's some lovely walks in Thurso. Take a stroll along Thurso Beach, keeping an eye out to Thurso East where you'll likely see surfers on an incoming tide. Caithness's only Surf School and board hire is based out at Dunnet, and you can either join a group lesson or have some 1:1 tuition!
If you're heading out to Thurso East, there are some great sights to spot on this walk route including Harold's Tower. This is one place I have only spotted from the road, which looks like a small castle; it's on my list to get closer to this year!
The Riverside in Thurso also has a lovely path on which you can walk or cycle. It's also the home of the Thurso Park Run which takes place on Saturday mornings.
Thinking about eating and drinking in Thurso, my shortlist would be:
- Pick up some award winning bakery items or shortbread tins from Reid's of Caithness.
- If you're self catering, head to the Fish Larder on the pedestrianised precinct, or Bew's Butchers - our lunchtime favourites are the homemade scotch eggs!
- Stock up your gin/whisky cupboard at JA Mackays - they've got a huge collection and regularly do tastings, as well as making up hampers - great for souvenir gifts to take home!
- Get a fix of Spanish Tapas at Capilla, a beautiful renovated chapel at nearby Scrabster - just a short drive/ bus journey or coastal walk from Thurso
- Also at Scrabster, get fish as fresh as it comes from the boats straight to Scrabster Seafood Bar (or splash out on a meal at the neighbouring Captains Galley restaurant).
- Get your pick of meat, veggie or vegan meal at Ynot - situated right in the centre of Thurso.
- Treat yourself to a coffee, milkshake or sundae at the Blue Door Diner, which for campers is conveniently located as part of Thurso Bay Camping and Caravan site. The Blue Door's ice cream is award-winning - picking up accolades on an almost yearly basis from the Royal Highland Show!
Old St Peters Kirk has been thought to be standing since the twelfth century, and was also a prison and court house, as well as functioning as a parish church. It was also the site of the trial of the Scrabster Witches in the early 18th century.
Other things to check out in Thurso:
The North Coast Visitor Centre houses a brilliant museum detailing local history, including an exhibition on Dounreay which is a decommissioned nuclear power station west of Thurso.
Thurso library houses an art gallery - exhibitions change every 4-6 weeks so pop along to see what's on display.
Get creative at Lindsey Gallacher's studio, where you can be guided through the process of silver jewellery making. Lindsey also makes jewellery out of Caithness flagstone and scratchboard art which depicts some beautiful Caithness scenes. For other Caithness art and gifts, head to the Coos Tail Gallery or the Caithness Corner in Eye Candy, which also has a supply of tourist information!
Thurso has the most northerly cinema on the UK mainland, which has all the latest releases, as well as National Theatre performances too. Check out their listings here.
This is just a few of all the things that you can do in Thurso, take a look at the Discover Thurso website for a comprehensive list!