Caithness means 'Land of the Cat', which refers to the Pictish tribe that lived here in the Dark Ages - not the four legged furry 'cat'!
If you look at the place names around Caithness, you will notice that they sound different to the rest of Scotland. This is because one of the main influences in Caithness was Norse. Caithness, along with the Orkney and Shetland Isles were populated and controlled by the Vikings - who originally came from Norway. They brought their language with them and this can still be seen in place names around the county today.
Caithness is certainly different to the traditional view one has of the Scottish Highlands, in fact Caithness is sometimes referred to as being beyond the Highlands and is referred to as the Far North, not the Highlands. The county unfurls as a vast rolling landscape of lush green pasture, wide open moorland, towering cliffs on a dramatic coastline and a huge sky. With a total population across Caithness and Sutherland together of around 28,000, space is not a commodity we are short of.
Over the last 150 years, the inland regions were depopulated through the Highland clearances and the booming herring industry drawing people to the coast. There are many empty cottages and crofts scattered across the county, bearing harsh witness to the reality of small-scale farming in the area.
An abundance of wildlife, clean air, stunning scenery coupled with excellent local produce, friendly natives and quiet roads make Caithness an ideal base for the more independently minded traveller.
The two main towns are Wick, the County town and Thurso. Both have a population of around 8,000. Wick has the commercial airport whereas Thurso has the ferry terminal. Main areas of employment are agriculture, the nuclear facilities at Dounreay - along with many subcontract electrical and engineering firms - and a fair amount of people working in the offshore oil industry.
For more information on the county of Caithness go to the Caithness.org website.
Track from Sinclair Bay to Keiss Village. Duncansby Stacks with North Coast Explorer (Wildlife Tours from John O'Groats).