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Dunnet Links National Nature Reserve
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There are many interesting attractions within the Dunnet Bay area to capture the imagination of the visiting tourist. Listed below are some of the more notable.

GILLS BAY

Look out across the Pentland Firth to the Island of Stroma. Stroma is Caithness's only island and was once home to a community of crofter-fishers. The population reached 375 in the late 19th Century, but steady emigration thereafter saw the last family leave for the mainland in 1962.

Stroma takes its name from straum, the Norse for tidal stream and it is an apt reminder of its location amid the ferocious currents of the Pentland Firth. During an ebb tide you will see the tidal race known as Men o' Mey. On the foreshore is a seal colony.

CASTLE OF MEY

Built between 1566 and 1572 by George, the fourth Earl of Caithness, it became the family home of Sinclair of Mey. In 1789 the elder line of the Mey family became extinct and for a century it was the seat of the local earldom.

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It was in a state of some decay when the Queen Mother bought it in 1952, shortly after the death of King George VI. The building was restored and is now the Queen Mother’s Highland holiday home.

Although not open to the public at present, the castle can be clearly seen from a number of vantage points around the Dunnet Bay tour route. On selected days during the summer the castle gardens are open to the public. For further details refer to the local press.

 ROYAL GALLERY

Situated to the west end of the Castle Arms Hotel in Mey, just along from the castle, the Royal Gallery offers a unique photographic insight to the Queen Mothers' life in Caithness.

Whether attending formal occasions, mixing with locals or meeting up with other Royals, the relative freedom she has enjoyed in Caithness is clearly evident.

Open all year round, entry to the gallery is free and selected prints are available to purchase.

DUNNET HEAD

This most northerly point on mainland Britain rises some 100 metres above sea level.

The Dunnet Head lighthouse was built in 1831 by Robert Stevenson, grandfather of the author Robert Louis Stevenson. It was automated in 1989.

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On a clear day the view point allows the visitor to see as far as Cape Wrath to the west and enjoy a stunning panoramic view across the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands to the north. Looking east one can see along the coast to John O'Groats and Duncansby Head. To the south lies Morven, the highest mountain in Caithness.

MARY-ANN'S COTTAGE

Situated at the Dwarwick Pier turning off Mill Road, Westside, Dunnet. This Caithness cottage has hardly been altered inside or out since it was built 150 years ago. The Caithness Heritage Trust has restored Mrs Mary-Ann Calder's former home. This crofthouse features a wealth of family history. It exhibits original box-beds and a host of early machines and implements which were used on the croft. For opening times and entry fees Tel: 01955 603385.

DUNNET KIRK

 

Dunnet Kirk is one of the oldest religious sites in Caithness. The earliest references date from 1230 A.D. and, although the building has been altered a great deal during its long service, much of the surviving structure still dates from the 16th Century.

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Dunnet has been served by many notable men of the cloth. Prominent among them was Timothy Pont, minister from 1602 to 1610 who was the first person to map much of northern Scotland. His memorial plaque can be seen inside.

RANGER CENTRE

Located adjacent to the car park at the north end of Dunnet Bay (next to the caravan site) the Ranger Centre exhibits the natural history of the area, including Dunnet Forest. For further information refer to separate leaflet.

OLRIG KIRK

On the north-west gable of the ruined Kirk are the date (1633) and the initials of the then minister David Bruce.

A medieval Kirk probably existed on the site before this date and may have been dedicated to St. Trothan.

Despite the very strong influence of the Kirk, superstition and legends abound. The old kirkyard at Olrig is the scene of the tale about the Selkie Woman. Found as a baby swaddled in a sealskin, she was subsequently banished from the Kirk as a devil worshipper and ultimately died giving birth to her first child. A small hollow on the stone reputed to cover her grave is said to never dry out!

FLAGSTONE HERITAGE TRAIL

Starting out of the car park at Castlehill, down by the harbour at the west end of Dunnet Bay, the trail is an interpretation of the Caithness flagstone industry.

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Caithness flagstone is known in the building trade throughout the world. Although the industry went into decline after the first world war, it is now enjoying something of a revival.

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in conjunction with
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Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise

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