Dwarwick to Castletown

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A walk from historic Dwarwick Pier along the coast and three miles of golden beach at Dunnet, culminating at the Castlehill Trail, the home of the Caithness flagstone industry. Return via Dunnet Forest and Dunnet. This walk links with Walk 3713, Dunnet Head to Dwarwick Pier.

Enjoy the golden sands of Dunnet Bay, which is very popular with surfers, horse-riders and walkers. Visit the Castlehill Trail, Dunnet Forest, Mary Ann's Cottage and the Highland Council Ranger Station (now called Seadrift Centre); opening times vary throughout the year. The views across the bay are magnificent.

Dwarwick Pier: the original small stone pier was constructed and funded by the Caithness County Council and the people of Dunnet between 1893 and 1897. In 1955 HMRY Britannia anchored off Dwarwick Pier for the first and only time. Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne landed at Dwarwick Pier to visit the Queen Mother at her Castle of Mey. This landing was commemorated by the erection by Caithness Council of a flagstone plaque.

Castlehill Trail: this area was the cradle of the flagstone industry which was begun last century by James Traill of Rattar, Sheriff of Caithness. A route description is given at the start of the walk and follows the progress of a piece of flagstone from it being raised in the quarry to shipment from the harbour. It reveals the remarkable history behind Caithness' most versatile and durable natural resource. Flagstone had long been used as a building material in the north of Scotland for paving, field dykes, walls and roofing. However, when James Traill came to Castlehill House overlooking the harbour (the house was destroyed by fire in 1967), he commenced the production of paving-stone on a commercial basis. The first cargo left Castlehill Harbour in April 1825.

The route back takes you again along the beach as far as the Ranger Station and Seadrift Centre and the caravan park. Leave the beach and visit the centre, then cross the road to Dunnet Forest, a community woodland managed by the Dunnet Forestry Trust. There are walking, cycling and horse-riding trails in the forest, as well as a permanent orienteering course. The forest covers 104 hectares, around half of which has developed into mature forest, the remainder being a mosaic of open space, scattered trees and scrub woodland. A range of tree species was planted, but the forest is now dominated by sitka spruce and lodgepole, Corsican and mountain pine, with a few broadleaf species such as sycamore.

Mary Ann's Cottage is a 'must see' in the area. The Caithness Heritage Trust acquired the croft in 1990 and has faithfully restored it, as near as possible, to the state when it was last worked by Mary-Ann and James Calder. Visitors are taken on a guided tour of the buildings. The croft is not a museum; the furniture, fittings and artefacts of all kinds are original, nothing has been added to make it appear more 'authentic'. It is open June to September, 2 to 4pm, closed Mondays.

Start at Dwarwick Pier and walk up to the left-hand bend in the road, go through the gate and continue along the coast. This route links Dunnet Head to Dwarwick Pier (Walk 3713) and at the Castlehill end, with the route from Thurso to Castlehill (Walk 4336), making a great walk along the coast from Thurso to Dunnet Head or vice versa.

Scotland - Highlands and Islands - Highland - Caithness


Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Church, Flowers, Great Views, Industrial Archaeology, Museum, Nature Trail, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, Sea, Toilets, Wildlife, Woodland

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Distance away
1.9 Miles