Welcome to our Sutherland and Caithness travel guide! Plan and book your perfect holiday with local tips, places to stay, things to do, holiday inspiration & destination info.
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Sutherland and Caithness are the furthest north you can get on mainland Britain They have become popular as part of Scotland’s North Coast 500 (NC500) route.
Sutherland and Caithness are in the very north of Scotland and certainly feel wild and remote, as you’d expect.
Caithness is the north-eastern tip of Scotland and has a land boundary with Sutherland. It’s coastline has Pentland Firth to the north and Moray Firth to the east. You can take a ferry across the Pentland Firth from Caithness to Orkney. Stroma island in the Pentland Firth is also within Caithness.
The county of Sutherland is below and stretches from Atlantic Ocean in the west, up to the Pentland Firth and across to the North Sea in the east. Cape Wrath is the remote far northwest point of Sutherland and the most northwesterly point in Scotland. Most of the population of Sutherland live in coastal villages such as Lochinver and Helmsdale.
The best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do on your Outer Hebrides holiday.
If seeing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) is your priority, winter is the best time to go. You will have more hours of darkness to enjoy the star-filled skies and, if you’re lucky, the lights. Sutherland and Caithness are some of the best places to see the Northern Lights.
Winter is also a less popular time of year so there will be less tourists.
May and June are good months for seeing breeding birds. including the rare corncrake.
Want to see the incredible spectacle of the wild flowers on the machair in the summer? Plan your trip for July and August. You also have more chance of seeing whales and dolphins during the summer.
In the summer you will also find cultural events including local Highland Games, Gaelic singing festivals.
As with anywhere, it can be hard to get accommodation at short notice during the summer holidays. Scotland’s school holidays run from the start of July to mid-August.
As the nights start to draw in birds either migrating south or fleeing the approaching Arctic winter. There’s also the chance you might see the aurora.
Megabus run coach services across the UK including to Inverness, Wick, Thurso and Dornoch. Find out more and book on the Megabus website.
The main Citylink coach route is from Inverness up the A9 and then west to Thurso/Scrabster for the Orkney ferry. It takes just under 4 hours. See the Scottish Citylink website for further info and timetables.
You can travel by train from Inverness to Thurso passing through Golspie, Brora, Helmsdale and Wick. Connecting buses from Thurso rail station take you to John O’Groats.
Inverness has good rail links. The Caledonian Sleeper service is an overnight train service running between London and Scotland.
Trans Pennine Express – check timetables and fare prices for anywhere in the UK. On this website you can buy rail tickets in advance to get the best deals. They don’t charge booking and credit card fees unlike some other websites.
If you prefer to travel without a car or fancy a day off from driving, there are several options including public transport.
Stagecoach buses operate services in the area and bus timetables are available on their website.
Cycling has grown in popularity on the quiet roads of the Scottish Highlands. Bring your own bike and use one of the bike and bag transfer services. The area is also well-known for being the start (or the end) of John O’Groats to Lands End in Cornwall cycle route. You can also hire a bike for a less demanding day tour.
You can hire taxis in the local area.
If you love walking, the challenge of the North Highland Way might take your fnacy. This long-distance walking trail of 150 miles (241 km) goes from Duncansby Head in the north-east corner of Scotland to Cape Wrath in the north-west corner via Thurso, Tongue and Durness.
We hope this info about Sutherland and Caithness has inspired you to start planning your holiday. Also on our website, you can find holiday accommodation in Sutherland and Caithness. The Lonely Planet Scottish Highlands and Island book is useful and if you buy direct from Lonely Planet you only have to pay for the chapters you need in digital pdf or you can buy the whole book. Also available from Amazon.
The best tips on what to do and see and where to go
Derek Beattie lives in Dumfries and Galloway and is an enthusiastic amateur…