The surroundings

Caithness Horizons

Caithness Horizons is a museum located in the old Town Hall in Thurso centre. It aims to share the story of the Caithenss culture and community with visitors to the area. The museum houses a permanent collection that tells the story of the county of Caithness from 416 million years ago to the present day including the Picts, the Vikings and the history of the Dounreay Nuclear Research Establishment. Within the building is also a temporary exhibition gallery with a changing programme, an excellent cafe with home baking, gift shop and visitor information. There are always lots of exciting things happening at Caithness Horizons which are regularly documented on the website.

Castlehill Heritage Centre

Located on the most northernly coast on the mainland of Scotland, Castletown in Caithness is frequently referred to as the “Flagstone Village” reflecting its association with the quarrying and export of high quality flagstone as paving and construction material by the 18th century improver and founder of the Castlehill flagstone industry, James Traill.


Braeside Retreats is perfectly placed for keen walkers should you wish to venture out on foot to explore the area. We are just two and a half miles from the village of Castletown; its downhill all the way! (but uphill all the way back)

Why not walk or cycle down to the local hotel for drink in the bar or on a Sunday, sample the locally famous Carvery Dinner – a no frills, excellent value, truly delicious meal. We dare you to sample the “all you can eat pudding trolley” – how many deserts can you fit on the plate?!

Castletown is well served with a late opening corner shop which will supply you with all your store cupboard essentials and of course that bottle of wine for sipping before you jump into the hot tub. Home to a handy post office and cash machine, they also stock local bakery products which are a must try! Tuck into a MacDonald’s of Wick cream cake or buy some “ Annie’s Bakery” sandwiches to take on your day trip. Using their own freshly baked bread, they are a cut above the rest.

For young children, there is an excellent swing park with a large picnic bench, make a morning of it and take some lunch, or nip into the Castletown Butchers for a locally famous hot Macaroni Pie or Sausage Roll.

Castletown Butchers is a real asset to the village. Not only stocking the traditional meats, sausages and burgers, they have a large variety of “ready to cook” meals such Itallian Meatballs in tomato sauce or Sweet and Sour Chicken, plus a range of ready made pies and quiches – ideal for minimal effort cooking. The chicken sausages are always a hit, as are the pork and apple burgers and don’t miss out on the shop-made coleslaw or coronation chicken for your sandwiches. They also stock an array of local produce not to be missed – the Caithness Summer fruits raspberries are delicious, there are bakery rolls, fresh free range eggs and John O’ Groats potatoes – not just your average butchers!

Castletown leads to the adjoining area of Castlehill; a former flagstone mining site which is responsible for the original growth of the village of Castletown. There is an free, interesting open air walk with informative plaques to tell you of the history of this industry and a small heritage centre run by local volunteers (link for opening times). You can wander on up to the harbour and look out across Dunnet Bay before following the loop back round to the main road; a lovely gentle route.

Dunnet Bay Distillery

Dunnet Bay Distillers is the business of local couple Claire and Martin Murray established in 2014, and producing Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka. These products have in the short time since opening, become so popular throughout Scotland and worldwide that they are now one of Caithness’s most famous exports. A range of different gins with seasonal botanicals are now available in addition to the original Rock Rose recipe. A distillery tour is available (booking advised) which allows you to relax in the comfort of their new, beautiful “tasting room” and sip on a Gin and Tonic before seeing the stills where the spirits are produced. The tour concludes with a tasting of three of their spirits and a goody bag to take home. Excellent value for money and a great experience for gin drinkers and novices alike – you will be converted! There is a stunning shop to purchase some gin to sip in your pod that evening whilst looking out over the landscape, what could be better?

Dunnet Beach

Probably the most famous beach in Caithness, Dunnet has the most spectacular expanse of golden sands and vibrant blue seas With sands over 2 miles long, take a leisurely stroll and see if you can witness the stunning sunset over the water. A must-see for any visitor to the area, see if you can get the whole beach to yourself.

Dunnet Forest

Caithness is not widely known for its trees due to the flat landscape and sea winds so Dunnet Forest provides a wooded sanctuary for us all to enjoy. A great destination for adults, children, dogs and horses alike, there are a variety of different routes to follow (some pram friendly) and some magic to be found along the way. Keep an eye out for the wooden carvings of a wise owl, a friendly wizard and look for the Gruffalos house in the deep dark woods. Play the wooden xylophone and have a teddy bears picnic at the Log Cabin. Free and open to all, a great place to visit on a windy day.

Castle of Mey

The stunning Castle of Mey dates back to the 14 century but hit the headlines in 1952 when The Queen Mother fell in love with it while visiting friends who lived locally. She bought and refurbished it, and it became her special highland retreat until her death. Her grandson, the Prince of Wales, still visits the Castle for two weeks each year in August, the spectacular scenery and local farm land hold a special place in the heart of Charles as it did his Grandmother. There is plenty to explore with tours of the Castle available, walled gardens, 30 acres of grounds and a new animal centre ideal for children to visit, In addition these is a great cafe and shop! Well worth a visit.

Gills Bay Ferry

If you would like to take a day trip to Orkney during your holiday, there is a short ferry crossing on the “Pentalina” from Gills Bay, just a 15 minute drive from Braeside Retreats. This ferry is basic but comfortable and the crossing is just over an hour (in comparison to the longer crossing provided by the Hamnavoe at Scrabster Port). The “Pentalina” docks at St Margaret’s Hope and we suggest that you plan your onward journey also; there are bus links into the main town of Kirkwall but please check all your timings in advance to get the most from your trip.

Northlink Ferries

The Hamnavoe is a luxury ferry leaving from the Port of Scrabster, just 10 minutes from Braeside Retreats by car, it is the ultimate way to travel to the Orkney Isles in style. There is a large lounge with bar to relax on the crossing, and a restaurant should you choose to eat en route. They have overnight cabin accommodation and kennelling facilities for dogs. The crossing is around 1 hour 30 minutes and comes into the port of Stromness. We advise you to check timings and plan your onward journey from here.

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Duncansby Head

A stunning route to see the striking Stacks of Duncansby and the associated seabird colonies, A must for budding wildlife enthusiasts. – see WALKHIGHLANDS

Annie's Bakery

Located at Canisbay, Annie's Bakery is well worth a visit to sample some yummy treats. Catering for many different groups, there are a great selection of both traditional and “free from” cakes.

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Ulbster Arms

A traditional stone-built hotel on the banks of the river Thurso, situated in the village of Halkirk. This one-time family home has been a retreat for shooting, fishing and holiday guests for over 150 years, and offers an excellent menu for bar meals. With traditional pub food elevated to a high standard, there is something for everyone, and in the Winter time the open fire crackles in the bar to keep you cosy.

Cardosi’s Cafe

A handy pit stop for a coffee and a cake whilst browsing the shops of Thurso. With a bustling atmosphere and an excellent selection of home baking to choose from, take the weight off your feet and relax with a latte.

The Blue Door

An American Style diner which serves homemade ice creams to die for. Try out the birthday cake flavour (a personal favourite) or have spectacular sundae or milkshake, the varieties on offer are endless The food is authentically American, not to be missed for a tasty burger. For more information go to