Visit Thurso and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Thurso, Highland, is a small town of considerable distinction and interest. It has a splendid natural situation, on the sweep of Thurso Bay, with its wide stretch of sands and guarded at either point by the towering cliffs of Holburn Head and Clairdon Head, with Dunnet Head standing majestically beyond, and across the Pentland Firth the distant cliffs of Hoy in Orkney. Thurso river flows through the town and into the bay, a long lively stretch of fine fishing water beloved of the salmon and trout fisherman; it has its source and tributaries far inland in the hills and lonely moors, and actually runs through the length of Loch More before it reaches the cultivated plateau of the North East. The town must have been an important centre for the Viking invaders of the coast of Scotland, who gave it the name Thor's-a, literally the river of the god Thor. Their power reached its height in the 11th century under Thorfinn, who defeated the army of King Duncan's nephew at Thurso in A.D. 1040.
To the North East of the town is Thurso Castle, now roofless, home of the Ulbster branch of the Sinclair family. Beyond the castle, Harold's Tower, the family burial place, is said to be built over the grave of Earl Harold, who ruled over half of Caithness and half of the Orkney and Shetland islands. He fell in battle with Earl Harold the Wicked in the 12th century.
There are three very clearly defined periods of development to be observed through the architecture of the town. The first is in the old streets near the harbour, where 17th and early l8th century fishermen's houses have been well restored.
The ruin of St Peter's Church, once the chapel of the bishops of Caithness, is here, with the tracery of one great window still intact.
The second phase was initiated by that foresighted son of Thurso, born in the castle, and author of so many improvements in the north, Sir John Sinclair. His statue by Chantrey stands in the square named after him, and round it lie broad streets with some delightful examples of early Georgian houses, in what might be described as a worthy northern parallel to Edinburgh's New Town.
The third phase was necessitated by the population “explosion”, caused by the influx of scientists, technicians, and other workers to the nearby Dounreay Atomic Reactor Station. It led to large modern housing schemes being carried out by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, and parallel schemes by the local authorities. New schools and colleges sprung up, and in only a few years Thurso doubled in size.
Thurso was created a burgh in 1633, and for the next 200 years was virtually the county town, and then Wick became the centre of the law and county administration. The port for large ships is Scrabster, which was a vital link for men and material going to Scapa Flow during both world wars. The Town Hall contains a collection of fossils and botanical specimens made by Robert Dick (1811—66), the “Thurso baker” who lived in a house marked by a plaque in Wilson Street. It was he who identified the northern holy grass common in Norway, but in Scotland growing only on the banks of the Thurso river.
Thurso's Regency New Town houses remind one of how Edinburgh's noble experiment in the neo-classical style moved right up the East of Scotland. Edinburgh had derived her inspiration from the Italy of the Renaissance period. The last and most northerly examples of the Italian Renaissance style in architecture may be seen here in Thurso upon the shores of the Pentland Firth, the ultimate seas that touch the mainland of the United Kingdom. The last ripple of the stone thrown into the pool of architectural culture by Michelangelo and Bernini ends on the most northern shores of Scotland.
earby islands: Hoy, Orkney
Nearby towns: Stromness, Wick
Nearby villages: Helmsdale, John o' Groats, Tongue
Have you decided to visit Thurso or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Thurso bed and breakfast (a Thurso B&B or Thurso b and b)
- a Thurso guesthouse
- a Thurso hotel (or motel)
- a Thurso self-catering establishment, or
- other Thurso accommodation