We had some overnight rain in Dunnet Bay but the sun was breaking out as we left and entered Thurso. A sign on the road said that it was the birthplace of William Smith, founder of the Boys Brigade. Thurso was a town before the Vikings arrived. It is the northernmost town on the Scottish mainland. Sitting astride the mouth of the River Thurso it grew up as an important trading and fishing port. Most sea traffic now goes to nearby Scrabster which is where we took the ferry to Stromness when we visited Orkney a few years ago. My 1927-28 Ward lock guide describes Thurso as having considerable tourist traffic in season, including people heading to the Orkney Islands. There was also some quarrying of Caithness sandstone. We stopped to replenish supplies and then continued through the town. We passed Old St Peter’s Church and on the edge of town stopped by Wolfburn Distillery. It is the most northerly distillery in mainland Scotland and was established in 1821 but more recently resurrected.
Further along the A836 is a road down to the ruins of St Mary’s Chapel, Crosskirk which sits on the cliffs. It was probably built in the 12th century and became a dependant chapel of the church in nearby Reay which was built in 1739. From the car park there is a path down to a bridge across the water, near another ruined building
and then uphill to the chapel. Only part of it is left, a more recent graveyard with graves up to the 19th century surround it.
There are views from the cliff edge towards Dunnet Head.
We then passed by Dounreay Nuclear Power Station housed the world’s first Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor. I remember the waste from it coming down the A9 and through Dunblane in the middle of the night. It is currently being decommissioned and this seems to provide a fair amount of work judging by the number of cars parked outside. A little further on just past Reay, a road runs down to Fresgoe and Sandside Bay.
It looks across to Dounreay.
Signs on the beach stopped me even looking for sea glass.
Sandside Bay has been settled since prehistoric times including Viking settlements but like many parts of the coast, these have been covered by the sand dunes. I wandered around the harbour which had a recently arrived boat.
I then walked up towards the headland for views with spring flowers
and admired the flagstone construction of the harbour wall which was built in 1830. This might turn into an abstract drawing or painting.
After lunch we completed 6.5 more miles, crossing the Halladale River and finding our campsite on the south side of Melvich.