As featured in Lonely Planet's Best of Travel 2024, Far North Scotland. Read more
As the principal town on the north coast Thurso is great base for those looking to explore Caithness and Sutherland and the wonderful variety of scenery, sights, history and wildlife. We always recommend doing a little research before you go to make the most of your visit as there is so much to see and do and you don’t want to miss out.
Our Heritage Map will help you discover sites to visit in and around Thurso and is available to download as an app so you can take your pocket-ready guide with you along the way.
Keep reading below to find out more about the town and its attractions and activities or click here to find out more about Thurso’s fascinating history.
As you look to plan your trip to the Scottish Highlands, or if you are already here, we would encourage you to be a responsible visitor and respect our locals, landscape, history and wildlife for the benefit of all.
Thurso Bay stretches from Scrabster in the west to the headland of Thurso East and is a wonderful spot to explore, swim, surf and enjoy.
Wolfburn Distillery is the most northerly whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland and promises handcrafted whisky made from only the finest ingredients. There are regular distillery tours as well as a gift shop on-site and online.
Thurso East is a world-renowned cold-water right-hand reef break that has hosted several international competitions. Take your own board or join a lesson with a local watersports provider to make the most of your day. You can also go hunting for the well-known Groatie Buckies on the shore around this area.
Thurso beach is the perfect spot on a sunny day to relax and enjoy the gentle sound of waves on sand, right on the doorstep of the town itself. Go for a bracing dip in the natural Rockwell swimming hole at the west end of the beach by the cliffs.
Victoria Walk is a stunning accessible clifftop walk from Thurso to Scrabster which takes in views of the Pentland Firth all the way across to the Orkneys. Look out for the traditional Caithness flagstone fencing which is a common sight around the area.
Thurso Pier has great views looking back to the beach and the town. On clear days you can easily see Scrabster and Holborn Head across the bay to the west and Dunnet Headland far off to the east. It is also a fantastic spot for a bit of star-gazing in winter.
Thurso Castle is easily visible from the town pier and stands out against the backdrop of Thurso East headland. There is a walk along the east side of the bay which takes in the castle but as the castle is in a state of disrepair it is not possible to explore inside. The beautiful Gatehouse is still in good repair and can be seen further along the walk.
The River Thurso cuts through the town and is host to a variety of wildlife including seals, otters, salmon and birds. There is a flat river walk, starting from town by the main bridge, which meanders along the eastern bank, and as a famous salmon-fishing river it is not usual to spot fly-fishermen trying their hand at the pools upriver.
Old St Peter’s Kirk is a ruined 13th century church near the harbour with church grounds which are open to the public. The kirk itself is closed to allow for preservation. At over 800 years old the kirk has a wealth of history including Norse finds and being the site of the Scrabster Witches trial in the early 1700s.
Lady Janet’s Seat is the base of a folly which originally had a tower on top. It was built near Thurso Castle and has excellent views across the Thurso Bay and Pentland Firth to Orkney.
Harolds Tower is a quirky looking folly on a hilltop inland from Thurso Castle. Legend has it that it guards an ancient burial ground where Viking Earl Harold of the Orkneyinga Saga was slain in 1196.
Burnside Broch is the remains of a possible Iron Age broch situated on a hillock. Querns and human remains were discovered at the site though little visible remains of the broch today.
Dunnet Head is a nature reserve to the east of Thurso where it is possible to view puffins, razorbills, guilliemots, fulmars and kittiwakes at the right time of year.
Scrabster is a small village to the north-west of Thurso with several sights to see including ferries to Orkney, the harbour, a sandy beach and Holborn Head.
Holborn Head is a headland just north of Scrabster where it is possible to enjoy walks along the clifftops with birdlife and sea-life viewing. Clett Rock is an impressive sea stack visible along the Holborn Head trail.
Holburn Head Lighthouse is unique in its incorporation of the lighthouse into the keeper’s cottage. It was discontinued in 2003 and the cottage is now available for rental.
Scottish Primroses are extremely rare and bloom only in certain locations in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney. Holborn Head is one of these locations so keep an eye out.
Things va is the remains of a broch situated at a strategic look-out point with views over Holborn Head, Thurso Bay, Thurso East and Dunnet Head. Little remains visible of the broch but the views are worth the trip.
Brims Castle was built in the sixteenth century and remained in domestic use until the twentieth century when it was abandoned and left to ruin.
Caithness Motocross Club are a local motocross club that practice and race on a track to the west of Thurso. Contact them for further information.
St Mary’s Chapel is one of the oldest ecclesiastical buildings in Caithness having probably been built around 1100. It lies in ruins today and is open to the public.
Annual events in and around Thurso:
Caithness County Show (alternates with Wick)
East of Thurso are the areas of Castletown and Dunnet
South of Thurso is the area of Halkirk
West of Thurso is the area of Reay
North-West of Thurso is the area of Scrabster
Thurso is the northernmost town on the British mainland and the principal town of the north coast with a variety of shops, attractions and ammenities.
The town centre is situated around the memorial square and features a lively pedestrian street with a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. Just a short walk away is Thurso beach and the harbour viewpoint by the old town. There is plenty of street parking available in town.
Thurso boasts a wide variety of food and drink establishments featuring cuisine both local and further afield. From dining in and sampling the delights of Highland hospitality to relaxing on the beach with a tasty takeaway, there is something to satisfy everyone. Take a look at our Restaurants and Bars listings for some ideas.
With hotels, B&Bs, campsites, caravans to let and glamping pods there are plenty of accommodation options to enjoy your stay. Experience Thurso like a local and glean all the top tips of where to go and what to see from your accommodation provider. Search our Accommodation listings for ideas.
Thurso has a fabulous variety of local shopping available from bespoke artistic creations to quirky souvenirs to remember your trip. There is a larger food shop in the area where you can pick up supplies and plenty of smaller convenience stores perfect for those essentials. Explore our Local Shopping listings to find out more.
Thurso is well-supplied with local facilities and amenities including: public toilets, laundrette and dry cleaners, post office, swimming pool, recycling centre, repair garages, hospital and health centres, vet, parks and playparks, churches and a cinema.
Thurso is well-connected to a variety of transport links and is relatively easy to reach.
Thurso is the northernmost station on the Far North Line which is part of the National Rail Network. The route is a perfect way to take in stunning northern scenery while sitting back and relaxing.
There are a variety of bus services available in Thurso whether you are looking to travel to the town itself or explore the local area. The X99 route has regular services between Thurso and Inverness.
Thurso is on the main A9 route north and the second last town before its terminus. The A9 is a well-maintained two-lane road which is drivable in most weathers. Approximate journey time from Inverness is 2 hours 20 minutes and approximate time from Wick is 30 minutes. Thurso has electric vehicle charging points available along with many other towns in Caithness and Sutherland.
Thurso is perfectly set out to enjoy walking tours of the town so why not explore on foot and take in the sights at a slower pace. You can access sites outwith the town by foot or by cycling and there is the option to rent bikes in Thurso. For journeys further afield there are taxis and public transport available and if you need to rent a car there are a couple of businesses available. Please consider choosing an electric vehicle if available to reduce your impact on the environment.
WalkHighlands is an excellent site listing walks around Thurso for you to explore.
Huli will create unique cycle routes tailored to you for Thurso.
If you are looking to learn more about Thurso these are some of the groups in the area: