Your Complete Guide to Thurso
Thurso in Scotland is the most northerly town on the British Mainland. It sits comfortably as one of the premier destinations along the North Coast 500, a 500-mile stretch of Scotland’s most scenic attractions. A quick trip through the town reveals just how many things to do in Thurso there are, so pack your bags and come see this wonderful town!
Thurso, situated in the far north of Mainland Scotland, is an excellent hub for exploring Scotland’s highlands and islands. It’s also a wonderful place to delve deep into the history of when Vikings from Northern Europe first made contact and built settlements in Thurso and Caithness.
Things to do in Thurso
Thurso may be a small town, but there are lots to see and do during your visit. Spend the day getting to know the city first by exploring its bars and restaurants, taking a picnic at its glorious harbour bay, and discover the many different kinds of traditional shops in this area.
Thurso is also teeming with history, and a journey here reveals incredible information about famous Scottish icons like the Sinclair family, the former Queen Mother, and the Earls of Caithness.
Before you get overwhelmed with what you should be doing while in this picturesque town, see our list of the top things to do in Thurso!
North Coast 500
The beautiful town of Thurso lies on the epic 500-mile Scottish driving route. North Coast 500 is renowned for being one of the most scenic drives in Scotland and is a popular road trip for tourists that want to see the best bits of the North Highlands.
Camper van owners love this world-famous adventure, but no matter what method of transport you choose, you will be amazed by the views you come across on your travels and this curated selection of Scotland’s finest.
When you travel to North Scotland, a journey east to see famous attractions like John o’Groats and the nearby Duncansby Head Lighthouse is a must!
John o’Groats is best known for its famous sign that marks the most northerly point of Mainland Britain, drawing many tourists to come and take pictures with this landmark destination.
Once you have got your obligatory picture with the John o’Groats sign, take a tour around this great part of Scotland. Exploring the challenging cliffs around Dunnet Head and taking in the beautiful scenery unique to this part of the world will leave you breathless.
Many visitors who travel to Thurso come to try and catch a glimpse of the enchanting Northern Lights. VisitScotland says that “even when there are low geomagnetic readings, this spectacle can often be seen from Caithness, dancing in clear skies over Orkney”.
There have been several sightings of the Aurora Borealis from Thurso; however, you have to be in the right place and at the right time to see this natural wonder. It’s best to plan for a few days’ stay in Thurso, so you have a higher chance of catching this gorgeous natural phenomenon.
Surfing and water sports
When the sun is shining, surfers from all over Scotland will travel to Thurso to enjoy the waves. The town hosts many major surfing events and championships, including two World Championships for Kayak surfing.
Surfing is not your only option, and there are plenty of watersport providers in the town that can help you explore the fantastic reefs of Thurso. Set out from the harbour and see the beautiful waters that North Scotland offers!
Thurso Golf Club
Thurso’s golf club was founded in 1893, and this unique club is proud of being the most northerly golf course on the Mainland of the United Kingdom.
That’s not its only draw, with its tree-lined parkland course attracting visitors from all over the world as it welcomes golfers of all abilities onto its grounds. So whether you’re looking to lower your handicap or enjoy an afternoon with friends, this golf club has you covered!
Its courses also grant views of the Scottish islands and Thurso’s surrounding countryside hills that can’t be seen anywhere else.
Sir John’s Square
Sir John’s Square is the very heart of Thurso and is one of the best ways to start your day when exploring this beautiful region of Scotland. Designed by Sir John Sinclair, the Square was planned when the new town of Thurso was first built in 1798.
You can set out from the Square and see many of the gorgeous sights within Thurso, like the impressive Janet Street overlooking the St Peter’s Church, Thurso Bridge, or Pennyland House.
Take some time to explore Sir John Sinclair Square, which connects many of the town’s best attractions.
The Fisher Biggins
Visiting the most ancient part of Thurso, Fisher Biggins, is an integral part of your journey through Thurso. Fisher Biggins was the original settlement that dates back to the 17th-century!
The old settlement, located on the west side of the River Thurso close, has been tastefully renovated to keep the feeling of history while making it useable for modern-day residents.
Now, walking through Fisher Biggins is like stepping back in time and emerging into the 17-century and serves as the perfect place for you to immerse yourself in Scotland’s past.
The mighty River Thurso is one of the best spots to visit as you travel through the Thurso. The town was named after this serene river, initially getting its name from Torsaa (Thor’s River), and is famous for its salmon angling.
The river is also a royal attraction and often sees visits from Prince Charles, who’s particularly fond of one section of the River Thurso known as the River Beat.
Cast your line like a Royal while enjoying the sights and sounds of this peaceful river.
Old St Peter’s Church
Even in ruin, the Old St Peter’s Church (or Old St Peter’s Kirk) is a stunning attraction that draws many to explore its ancient stone walls. This fascinating site dates back to at least 1220 and provides St Peter’s with an unparallel air of history.
The south-facing window of old St Peter’s Church is its main attraction, with an ornate and intricate design that is the perfect set-piece to take pictures with. This historic site is a great way to satiate any Scottish history buff!
You can explore St Peter’s Kirk while in Thurso, so set aside some time and enjoy this historical site.
The Meadow Well
The Meadow Well sits in the centre of Thurso on Manson’s Lane and was once the primary source of water for Thurso. This attraction is a hidden gem within Thurso and one that very few people notice as they explore throughout Thurso.
You can recognise the Meadow Well by its conical roof and old stone bricks. It’s also often decorated with an arrangement of beautiful flowers that draw your eye to it as you walk through Thurso.
This historical attraction is tucked away in Thurso, but you should certainly take some time to peer into the history of this traditional well. A fine public library nearby will also provide informative clues and tales about this historical landmark.
Holborn Head Lighthouse
The Holborn Head Lighthouse is a stunning lighthouse, wrapped in traditional white-and-gold colours, with beautiful Scrabster Harbour & Pentland Firth views. Truly picturesque, the Holborn Lighthouse is one site you should check out while exploring the area around Thurso.
Built by David and Thomas Stevenson in 1862, the Lighthouse is about an hour’s walk from Thurso Bay and is well worth the trek alongside the coasts of this northern town.
You should set aside a morning to make the trip up to Holborn Head Lighthouse. You certainly won’t regret the beautiful views that it grants you.
Just outside Thurso sits the magnificent Thurso Castle, a towering castle that was once a Viking stronghold! Little is known about this mysterious structure before its first records in 1157 by Earls of Orkney and Caithness, but Sir John Sinclair rebuilt the current Castle in 1872 into the form it stands in today.
It dominates the surrounding landscape, and its immaculate stone bricks draw in many visitors to explore the Castle grounds. It’s one of the main attractions in Thurso and is easily be seen from Thurso Beach, which it sits next to.
Immerse yourself into this former Viking stronghold as you tour through Thurso Castle. It’s a sight you won’t regret making time for.
Some of the best whisky you can taste is found at this humble distillery in the most northerly town of Scotland. The Wolfburn Distillery prides itself on making whisky in the way they know best, with their hands, using the finest ingredients, and plenty of time.
Enjoy a tour of the beautiful and world-class facilities of Wolfburn before trying some of their finest blends. This whisky is best enjoyed as you travel throughout Thurso and see its dramatic coastlines and spectacular landscapes as you sip on their fine blends.
A trip to the Wolfburn Distillery is definitely in order while in Thurso. Whisky connoisseurs will be shocked at the quality of whisky from such a young distillery. Check out their website for more information!
The stunning Thurso Beach sits along with the town of Thurso and holds some of the best views of the northern coastline, Pentland Firth, as well as Thurso Bay on its eastern side.
The Beach is the perfect place to take your family, with the ocean’s lapping waves of the sea as you enjoy the quaint atmosphere that Thurso has to offer.
Thurso Beach is an incredible beach to visit with friends and family and spend the day basking in the summer sun.
The well-preserved Brims Castle stands resolute against time in Thurso, a remnant of the defiance against Earl Caithness’ domination of the area during the 16th-century.
This historic site, just west of Thurso, is one of the best places to visit for those who want to immerse in the region’s history. This ruined Castle’s structure looks surprisingly stable for a design that originates from the 16th-century and offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance at exploration into an ancient piece of Scottish history.
Castle and Gardens of Mey
The Castle of Mey is one of the most beautiful castles you’ll enjoy seeing while on the Scottish Mainland. It stands proudly near the coastline, nearly 20-minutes east of Thurso and is one destination you should heavily consider adding to your to-do list.
The Castle boasts many attractions within its grounds, from the expansive lush gardens, a lively animal centre, and the visitor centre where you can peruse a fine collection of memorabilia and souvenirs.
A visit to the wondrous Castle Mey is a voyage into a magical world that you can rarely experience this far north.
The lovely art gallery of Glass Creations at the Swanson Gallery hosts year-round exhibitions for those that want to enjoy the stunning glass artwork by artist Ian Pearson.
This art gallery is home to a collection of beautiful art from many proudly Scottish artists and immerses you in a world of finely crafted portraits, glass, and scientific tools. The fine artwork presented at the Swanson Gallery is one you cannot miss while in Thurso.
You may even find yourself smitten by one of the brilliant pieces on display and decide to help the local economy and take it home.
Caithness Horizons Visitor Centre
This recently reopened Visitor Centre takes guests on a journey throughout the history of the Caithness county using magnificent exhibits.
You can see examples of pottery and fossils from the surrounding lands, learn about the Dounreay Nuclear Power Station, relive the Viking’s nomination of this area of Scotland, or admire the biological specimens gathered by Robert Dick. The Caithness Horizons Visitor Centre has it all!
The Caithness Visitor Centre also has a rotating exhibit which features even more fascinating artefacts like the history of Caithness and Thurso. End your day of learning and exploration by visiting the cafe and gift shop! Take some time to delve into Caithness Horizons fully; you won’t regret it!
The famous Rotterdam Street in Thurso is undoubtedly a great place to start exploring this beautiful northern terminus in Scotland. The street has it all, from incredible restaurants, cafes, and shops, and even serves as the shopping district for Thurso.
Rotterdam Street is one of Thurso’s main streets, sharing popularity with Traill Street and Janet Street, which overlooks the Thurso Bridge. You’ll be spending some time in this high street if you’re interested in tasting delicious delicacies and shopping for Scottish fashion.
Stopping by Rotterdam Street, Traill Street, and Janey Street is a no-brainer while fully exploring these scenic cobblestone streets in this far north destination.
More Things to do in The Highlands
- Things to do in Arisaig
- Things to do in Aviemore
- Things to do in Beauly
- Things to do in Brora
- Things to do in Caithness
- Things to do in Carrbridge
- Things to do in Drumnadrochit
- Things to do in Fort Augustus
- Things to do in Fort William
- Things to do in Gairloch
- Things to do in Invergordon
- Things to do in Inverness
- Things to do in Kingussie
- Things to do in Kyle of Lochalsh
- Things to do in Lochinver
- Things to do in Loch Ness
- Things to do in Nairn
- Things to do in Newtonmore
- Things to do in Strathpeffer
- Things to do in Ullapool
- Things to do in Wick