Thurso to Castletown

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A coastal walk from Thurso to Castletown; enjoy Thurso Castle and the Castlehill Trail, as well as local history en route.

The 12th Century Thurso Castle at Thurso East can be seen from the bridge as you approach the start of the walk. It was originally an earthwork fortress, founded by the Norse Earls. In the 17th Century it was replaced by a stone tower house, which was then absorbed in the construction of a 19th Cntury baronial mansion, founded by Sir Tollemache Sinclair. Sadly, following a fire, the remains are now a roofless shell.

The next point of interest is Harold's Tower. There was a chapel at the Hill of Clardon on the site of which Harold's Tower was built by Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster before 1780 to mark the spot where Earl Harold (the younger) was supposedly killed and buried at the Battle of Clardon Hill in 1196 (ND16 NW14).

Make your way along Murkle Beach, a gloriously sandy beach with a number of inlets and geos, but take care when you get to the northern end - there are some tricky spots. It is better to stick to the beach rather than climb up to the fenceline, as there is a lot of undergrowth in the summer months and holes to trap the unwary. Clambering on the rocks can be slippery, so take great care.

Murkle East Mains Farm is very interesting in that it employed about two dozen people in the early part of the 20th Century. For no fairly obvious reason there were tank traps placed here during WW2 and there are two placements for what would have been large guns, near the bottom of what is appropriately called Battery Row.

You will eventually emerge at Castlehill, where there is a flagstone trail, a community woodland and sculpture trail in what was a flagstone quarry. The peace and tranquillity belies its busy and important past. 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 in the car park and follows the process of raising a piece of flagstone from 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.

Scotland - Highlands and Islands - Highland - Caithness

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Castle, Flowers, Great Views, Industrial Archaeology, Nature Trail, Public Transport, River, Sea, Toilets, Wildlife

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Accommodation
Distance away
6.8 Miles