Places To Visit Near Forss House Hotel
The Castle and Gardens of Mey, this beautiful wee castle was bought by the Queen Mother in 1952 not long after George VI died. She renovated it and created the gardens and spent every summer here for almost half a century. It was the only home she ever owned. It is a remarkable little castle full of all sorts of things that anyone’s granny might have and then a reminder that this granny was a Queen! Helpful and enthusiastic staff – many of whom worked for the Queen Mother – add greatly to the experience.
Mary Ann’s Cottage, a traditional crofting cottage just a few miles from Mey. Mary Ann’s Cottage was built in 1850 by Mary Ann’s grandfather and when she moved out in 1990, just before her 93rd birthday, it was left in trust exactly as it was. It gives a unique insight into the traditional crofting life of a lady who lived at almost exactly the same time as the Queen Mother. Open June to September, visitors are guided around the croft by local volunteers.
John o’Groats, no trip north is complete without a trip to John o’Groats. It is “the end of the road” for those on walking or cycling trips from Lands End. You can normally see a happy face or two of those who have made the “uphill” journey. There is a great RIB ride from the Harbour and it’s close to the Stacks of Duncansby. Other than that they are busy improving the village, there is now a very decent café and you can buy your statutory T towel and postcard home! The ice cream shop is well worth a visit too.
The Stacks of Duncansby. Take the single track road from John O’Groats to Duncansby Head, park at the lighthouse and take in the magnificent view over the Pentland Firth, beyond Stroma, to the Orkney Islands. Then follow the path following the coast and you come to the amazing pointy Stacks of Duncansby and the rock arch of Thirle Door. Natural architecture on a huge scale!
Orkney Isles. Take the boat from John O’Groats for a day trip or take your car by ferry from Gills Bay or Scrabster Harbour and spend some time on the beautiful Orkney Islands. Very like Caithness (but more water) there are about 70 islands, but the largest (confusingly called “the mainland”) has lots of things to see including The Italian Chapel; Ring of Brodgar; Skara Brae and pretty town of Kirkwall with its small red sandstone Cathedral and shops.
Caithness Horizons is a modern museum in the centre of Thurso which opened at the end of 2008, it houses a permanent exhibition to tell the story of Caithness from 400 million years ago to the present day. It is very nicely done and also has a good gift shop and café.
Wick Heritage Centre is rather the opposite of Horizons, it tells the story of Wick from a row of houses down near the harbour in Wick. It is an endearingly higgledy piggledy collection and you will probably find a few things that you remember from your granny’s house! If you are going over to Wick, well worth a visit and the guides are all very helpful.
Camster Cairns are the two Grey Cairns of Camster that are amongst the oldest stone monuments in Scotland. They were built over 5000 years ago and are the best preserved burial tombs surviving from the Neolithic period anywhere in Britain. It is worth going for the location alone – a lonely spot in the heart of the Flow Country but relatively easy to get to. It is the most amazingly atmospheric place and you can crawl right into the Cairns. Well worth visiting and you will probably have it to yourself. It doesn’t even have a website!
Caithness Broch Centre, if you are into archaeology then this is well worth a visit. Brochs are tall imposing circular drystone towers built over 2000 years ago and there are more of them in Caithness than anywhere else in Britain. The Broch centre explores the communities who lived in them and the legacies they left to the present day communities.
Old Pulteney Distillery is the most Northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland, Old Pulteney was founded in 1826 in the heart of Pulteneytown, the area of Wick created to house fisherman during the herring boom. It is a lovely wee distillery and the tour will take you through the art of distilling from barley to barrel. The whisky isn’t bad too and the 21 year old was voted 2012 World Whisky of the Year by the prestigious Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. This beautiful windswept ruined Castle is just north of Wick beyond Staxigoe. It was once the centre of power of the powerful Earls of Caithness, who from its strategic point on Noss Head could control trade to the Orkneys and therefore the Americas beyond. The current Earl is spearheading a great archaeological excavation of the Castle system, which is still not complete, but even from outside you can see what a magnificent Castle it must have been.