NC 500 – Day 2 – Swiney to Thurso (via John O’Groats)

Route taken : Swiney, Wick, Staxigoe, Keiss, Duncansby, John o’Groats, Dunnet (head, town, and bay), Castletown, Thurso

A glorious night at The Croft House, the breakfast filled us till 3pm.

Senses and Discoveries

The region is quite tree-less except for some new pine forests.

We learn that the Gaelic language is not common in this region of Caithness due to the Norse (Viking) history.

We buy the ‘Caithness Flag’ badge, a depiction of stone, sand, water and the Wick emblem of Norse heritage with a Raven.

We experienced the extreme weather we longed for at Duncansby Head. The winds were building, the black cloud gaining on us and there was nowhere to hide. Soon enough we were saturated on one side mostly, but by the time we returned to the car we had mostly dried off. That is Scotland! 

After the storm passed….

Stops along the way

Based on local knowhow we accessed the steep stairway of 338 steps as they zig zag down to an old port where women would carry the local catch to the top and walk 5 miles to the Wick market. What a feat!. We took a further look around the corner and watched Shags making their nests for quite some time before climbing back up those steps. (Whaligoe Steps) (E2M).

Just prior to Wick we parked at the end of a farm track and checked out the Oldwick Castle and the Brig o’ Stack/Trams. One of Scotland’s oldest castle ruins of the 1160s, it is perched on the narrow headland overlooking the sea. The nearby stack is a natural rock bridge formed when two caves eroded on either side. (Wick) (E2M)

Oldwick Castle, the views from the headland are spectacular

No time for a tour but The Old Pulteney Distillery houses a short introduction to their history. It was a perfect location as the weather closed in and started to pour. Apparently the still was too large for the building so they cut the neck off and their bottles are now a depiction of the still. A tasting of the 17yo revealed notes of apricots. (Wick)

Directly northeast of Wick on the coast is Staxigoe with its’ medieval harbour. Harbour and history still intact as it was a major Herring port. Salt was obtained from the Baltics, paired with the little fishes, barrelled then sent back to the Baltics as Barrels of Silver!. Further around the coast the Castle remains of Sinclair Girnigoe featured red sandstone and beautiful inlets. (E2M)

Further up the coast we stopped at a small harbour to see the fisherman weighing his crabs and even sold some to tourists at around 1.80 each. (Keiss)

A local farmer earlier today pointed us in the direction of Bucholly Castle to which we found per his instructions and were gobsmacked by the views in both directions. He really knew his stuff! (E2M!)

The red sandstone ruins lies behind us.

Reaching the far north eastern point of Scotland meant that we just became ‘End to Enders’ achieving our presence at the furthest points at either end of the UK (just we haven’t seen everything in between). (John o’Groats) 


Dunnet is the most northerly point of the UK mainland AND has a distillery. Welcome Rock Rose gin and vodka producers who have even teamed up with a shortbread baker for a juniper buttery mix. 

They sell tonic and gin packs. Perfect for the traveller. Note, ice and location not included.

A quick stop at Castletown to admire the Flagstone history and we had reached Thurso for the night, staying at Sandra’s Hostel. 


2 thoughts on “NC 500 – Day 2 – Swiney to Thurso (via John O’Groats)

  1. Great photostory from the NC 500! We went the other way around, enjoyed every minute of it. Did you climb the Whaligoe steps south of Wick?
    Have a fine Sunday,
    The fab Four of Cley


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