The Highlands of Scotland need no introduction, known the world over for their rugged beauty. On this journey we focus, however, on the lesser known northern areas of the Highlands, that have remained relatively unchanged and present a sharp contrast with other more populated parts of the country.
Beginning with three nights in Thurso, the northernmost town on the UK mainland, our journey takes in Duncansby Head, the most northerly point on the British Mainland John O’ Groats, Dunnet Head and a day trip to the Orkney Islands with its rich Viking Heritage.
Cape Wrath and its iconic lighthouse built in 1828 is also on the menu, before we complete our visit to the north with a walk out to the magnificent beaches at Sandwood Bay on the dramatic Atlantic coastline. The walk from Blairmore is rewarded by arrival at one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Britain. Where we spend time exploring the mile of golden sand and dunes, with rocky cliffs and a giant sea stack (The Shepherd) that sets the dramatic scene.
Paths here are not beaten, and nature is raw. This is a world away from the noise of everyday life.
Our trip begins with a transfer from Inverness Rail Station to Thurso, the most northerly town on the British mainland.
Located at the end of the A9, the main transport route through Scotland, Thurso is 300 miles from the main industrial area of Central Scotland and the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is also the birthplace of Sir William Alexander Smith (1854 – 1914), the founder of the Boys’ Brigade.
Our Inverness departure time is set at 2pm to meet with the morning trains arriving from Glasgow and Edinburgh and also to allow those arriving by air to make their way into town from Inverness Airport situated 9 miles east of the city.
En route we will stop at Tain to take in a visit to the Glenmorangie Distillery where you can experience the centuries old whisky distillation process and sample a glass of highland hospitality before continuing the journey to Thurso.
Overnight Manor House, Thurso
This morning we take a transfer to Dunnet Head Lighthouse, the most northerly point on the British Mainland. We return by following the western side of the coastline on unmarked tracks overlooking spectacular cliffs with sea views over to the Orkney Islands to the north.
We descend Dunnet Head past secluded Peedee Bay where we take lunch. If sea conditions are favourable a dip is even possible! After lunch, we move on to Dwarwick Pier and the expansive eastern end of Dunnet Bay. We then walk across the golden sands returning past Castletown at the west side of the bay for our return transfer to Thurso.
Overnight Manor House, Thurso
An early morning departure to John O’ Groats with time to view the Lighthouse at Duncansby Head and The Stacks before boarding the 08.45 ferry across the Pentland Firth for our visit to Orkney. The full-day tour visits all the iconic locations of the islands such as Kirkwall with its magnificent Norse Cathedral, Skara Brae Neolithic site (older than Stonehenge), The Churchill Barriers and the beautiful Italian Chapel.
We return early evening for our private transfer back to Thurso.
Overnight Manor House, Thurso
We begin our day with a morning walk down to the picturesque harbour of Scrabster – the crossing point to Stromness on Orkney. We then head out past Holborn Lighthouse to Holborn Head for a circular walk around the headland taking in some dramatic seascape features such as stacks, arches and layered rock formations over crashing waves. Our morning's walk will be approximately 7 miles/11km.
In the afternoon we journey west by private transfer Bettyhill for a short walk around Àrd Mòr (approx 3 miles/5km), a high peninsula north of Bettyhill Village and Farr Bay where again swimming is possible from this quiet secluded beach.
Overnight Bettyhill Hotel, Bettyhill
Today we have an early morning transfer from Bettyhill, past Durness to the Keoldale ferry point on the Kyle of Durness for crossing and onward local minibus transfer to the lighthouse at Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point on the British mainland. Time spent at the lighthouse before walking to idyllic Kearvaig Beach (our lunch and swimming spot) before rendezvousing with the minibus for return to Keoldale ferry.
The lighthouse at Cape Wrath was built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson and was manned until 1998 when it was converted to automatic operation. It is a Category A listed building, 20 metres tall, consisting of a white-washed tower built of granite with a single-storey semi-circular base building.
Cape Wrath has a wide diversity of wildlife, including red deer golden eagles and a variety of seabirds such as cormorant and gannet can be seen on this walk.
On return ferry crossing we return to Durness by taking the west side of the Durness Circuit to Balnakeil Craft Village, then on quiet roads through Durness and on to our hotel for the evening.
Please note that on the 2nd July departure we spend this night and the next night, in Kinlochbervie.
A more relaxing day with local walking around Smoo Cave located on the eastern approaches to the settlement of Durness. We take time to view the cave from the beach before reaching Durness by way of Sango Sands on a mix of seaside tracks and road walking in time for lunch.
In the afternoon we take time out at Balnakeil Craft Village before walking the circular route (about 4.5 miles/7km) over the peninsula out past the beaches at Balnakeil to Faraid Head.
In the event of inclement weather preventing a crossing to Cape Wrath it is possible to take a local walk around the Durness Circuit (5.5miles, 9km)at the western end of the town adjacent to Balnakeil. The circuit is located at the west end of Durness and overlooks the Kyle of Durness and Balnakeil.
Overnight Smoo Cave Hotel.
N.B 02 July to 9th July departure will stay in Kinlochbervie
Morning transfer to Blairmore and onward walk to the magnificent beaches at Sandwood Bay on the dramatic Atlantic coastline. The walk is rewarded by an arrival at one of the most beautiful and remote beaches in all of Britain. Spend time exploring the mile of golden sand and dunes, with rocky cliffs and a giant sea stack to complete the dramatic scene before walking back to Oldshoremore where our minibus awaits to transfer you to Inverness for the final overnight on the tour.
The trip ends in Inverness after breakfast.
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Here at Headwater we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can continue to develop, and where necessary improve, our services and ensure our holidays continue to be the best they can be. As this is a relatively new holiday, we don't yet have any customer reviews available from our customers, but here are the comments that have been received from previous Exodus travellers.
Having just completed this trip I can report that the concerns raised by the reviewer of the July version had been addressed and I found it a most enjoyable trip well led by Brian and more than ably supported by Susan. All the walks were really good, some having been revised to ensure safety levels were suitable and the scenery is spectacular. A highlight was seeing otters on the beach on the walk back to Thurso from Dunnet Head. The day trip to Orkney was also well worth it. made memorable by the knowledge and enthusiasm of our driver. The accommodation generally was better than I expected, although the hotel in Thurso was not as good as the others. We had a good group who all got on well and meant that the atmosphere throughout was sociable, although some of the jokes left a bit to be desired!! I would definitely recommend this trip to others.