Why Caithness is a great holiday destination for children
The far North of Scotland is a lovely holiday destination. There is amazing scenery to see, superb wildlife to spot and fantastic activities to undertake in Caithness.
John O Groats is in the furthest north easterly point, and Land’s End is on the furthest south westerly point, 876 miles apart. The actual most northerly point of the UK is Dunnet Head and it’s a great place to take kids.
However there are also no shortage of magnificent places to go and superb things to do for children – here are a few ideas of things to do in Caithness with families!
Go to the Castle of Mey and see the Animal Centre
When The Queen Mother bought the Castle of Mey as a holiday home in 1952, it was in a derelict state. However, since then it has been beautifully renovated and now has a Visitors Centre, Cafe, and Gardens which visitors can explore. The highlight of the visit for children will be the educational animal centre. Here you can meet Alice the donkey, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits and more. Visitors can touch chicks, bottle-feed lambs or scratch the back of a piglet!
Reach the most northerly point of the UK mainland at Dunnet Head lighthouse
John O’ Groats is often mistaken as the most northerly point of the UK mainland. In truth it is one end of the longest distance between two points in Great Britain. John O Groats is in the furthest north easterly point, and Land’s End is on the furthest south westerly point, 876 miles apart. The actual most northerly point of the UK mainland is Dunnet Head, and it’s a great place to take kids.
Although Dunnet Head lighthouse stands on a 300-foot high cliff, the edge is walled off, ideal for children. There’s also a fabulous view point on the hill. From there you can see from Duncansby Head to Cape Wrath, as well as Ben Klibreck, Ben Hope and the Orkney islands.
Find out about seabirds and sea creatures at the Seadrift Centre, Dunnet
While you’re at Dunnet, make sure you visit the Seadrift Centre, located at the north end of Dunnet beach. Here you’ll find brilliant hands-on displays focusing on plants, animals, birds and dolphins of the north. It’s very much geared towards kids and there are plenty of activities available and magnificent views of wildlife from the centre itself. Whilst there, explore the sweeping and beautiful Dunnet Beach – another great place in Caithness for children.
Take a walk in Dunnet forest
Just inland from Dunnet beach is Dunnet forest, which has a fabulous forest trail! Children will love exploring amongst the trees – they’ll find a log hunt, a bird hide, carved animals, sculptures, totem poles and a massive xylophone made of wood. There is a horse riding trail, a mountain bike trail, plenty of birds to spot and even some Roe Deer.
Visit a swimming pool
There are some great swimming pools to attend in Caithness and Sutherland for a fun family outing. The North Coast Leisure Pool in Bettyhill is super and both the Thurso and Wick swimming pools are worth a visit. Thurso has a lovely toddler pool, and both pools regularly throw out inflatables to keep children amused!
Go on a coastline boat tour
There are some great coastal boat tours available for all ages in Caithness. These are well worth taking as there are some amazing sights along this coast. One of the most impressive castles in Scotland, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe (pictured) near Wick, clings to the cliffside and is well worth seeing by boat. The Stacks of Duncansby are two dramatic spikes jutting from the sea to the north east. There are also seabirds, whales and cliffs to enjoy by boat tour.
Try surfing with a taster session
The waves at Thurso and Caithness are famous amongst UK surfers, and if you want to learn, Caithness is a great place to be. Cafe Tempest in Thurso harbour is noted as a great place to hire surf gear, and it is a very fine cafe too! For beginners though, we’d recommend keeping an eye on The North Shore Surf Club Facebook page. The club are known to put on summer taster sessions which are highly recommended.
Step into the crofting past with your children in Caithness
If your children like the idea of seeing what it was like to live in the past, Mary-Ann’s Cottage in Dunnet is well worth a look. It’s a traditional Caithness cottage that was built in 1850 and has remained almost unaltered. Traditional working practices remained the same, so visiting is a fascinating glimpse into the past. It is a very hands on place to visit with old tools to see. The most modern addition to the cottage was a telephone! The Laidhay Croft Museum at Dunbeath is also popular and offers a similar experience. It is very well worth taking the time to visit.
Crawl into the ancient past
Another place adventurous children will love in Caithness is the Grey Cairns of Camster near Watten. These are two Neolithic burial chambers, one large and one small. They are similar to Maeshowe in Orkney but without the grass covering! You can simply pull the bolt on the gate, crawl in and explore.
There are many other fine places to go with children in Caithness. There are some fine play parks throughout the region and on a rainy day visit the Thurso Library where there are regular reading groups for young children.
Visit Forsinard Nature Reserve
A little further afield, are some other notable place to go with children. Forsinard Nature Reserve is 30 miles from the Scrabster Ferry Terminal, in the county of Sutherland.
This beautiful peatland landscape has a Visitor’s Centre with a great exhibition suitable for all ages with games, jigsaws and activities, located in the Forsinard railway station building. Children can find a Wildlife Explorer backpack which they can take out on the trail for free. The Dubh Lochan Trail itself is an easy walk across flagstones and amongst lochans. You’ll see dragonflies, diving beetles and pond skaters, golden plovers, hen harriers and greenshanks, and some carnivorous insect-eating plants like sundew and butterwort. There are also guided walks available twice a week.
An observation tower has recently been built which provides a great view over the flat landscape of Forsinard. You may even see deer from the tower!
Explore Smoo Cave in Durness
Also sneaking in to this list from the county of Sutherland, we’d highly recommend taking families to Smoo Cave in Durness. This is a huge cave carved by freshwater at the top and carved into a sea cave at the bottom. It can be accessed by footpath and has impressive pools and a waterfall to see! It lies on the same north coast as Scrabster, but 70 miles west of the NorthLink ferry Terminal. Boat tours of the inner cave are available during summer months.
Orkney and Shetland enthusiast, family man, loves walks, likes animals, terrible at sports, dire taste in music, adores audiobooks and films, eats a little too much for his own good.