The NC500 with children and dogs, exploring Caithness

Caithness on the North Coast 500 is a dog-friendly and family-friendly place for a holiday – there is so much to explore when you get out from behind the wheel, and a lot of it is free.

Believe it or not, this list is just a taster! Pins and What 3 Words addresses take you to the nearest appropriate car parks.

Things for children to do on the NC500

Talk to the animals, walk with the animals

The Ulbster Alpacas will take your children for a walk – or maybe it’s the other way round!  I loved meeting these sweet and gentle creatures, and the trek is suitable for most children over five.

Ulbster Alpacas

Puffin Croft is in John o’Groats village; with a farm shop and petting farm with donkeys, goats, miniature ponies, sheep, pigs, rabbits and more, so there are creatures for everyone to enjoy.

Geise Farm just south of Thurso has is an all-in-one, with meekats and alpaccas and more traditional farm animals, as well as  riverside fairy walk.

Lichen Caithness believe reindeer are for life, and not just for Christmas! Learn about reindeer and meet Sven, Levvi & Mr Antlers.

Reindeeer at Lichen Caithness - Image from Lichen Caithness

Seawolf Tours is run by Jess McHardy, an experienced ecologist, who does wonderful wildlife tours in your car and on foot. You can see our other summer visitors – the lovely puffins – as well as seals, and maybe dolphins or whales.

Caithness Seacoast take the rib out to see puffins and seabirds. Depending on the weather and tides, you may visit  see the lighthouses from the sea or go out out to the wind farm; they also do harbour trips for smaller children.

Noss Head lighthouse from the Caithness Seacoast Rib
Noss Head lighthouse from the Caithness Seacoast Rib

Make chocolates

 CC Chocolatier offers the chance to make your very own chocolates. Probably one for slightly older children, because it isn’t cheap, but my goodness they’re delicious! And what a treat!

CC Chocolatier
CC Chocolatier

Find out who’s who at John o’Groats

John o’Groats Brewery might not be an obvious choice of somewhere to take your children, but the  audio tour, which takes about 30 minutes, is full of characters from local history and true stories about John o’Groats. Something that imaginative children from seven year-olds up will enjoy.

Look for fossilised fish

Achanarras Quarry may not have dinosaurs, but you can find your very own fossilised fish here. They can be hard to spot, so this may be one for more patient teens and budding palaeontologists. But so rewarding when you find one!

Fossilised fish from Achanarras Quarry
Fossilised fish from Achanarras Quarry

Learn to bodyboard or surf

North Coast Watersports teach surfing and bodyboarding, so this is one for sporty tweens and teens. Did you know that Thurso has some of the best surfing in the UK?

A day trip to Orkney

Well why not? It’s very close! Maynes bus tours meet foot-passengers off the Pentland Ferry, or drive across Orkney Mainland by booking your vehicle on one ferry and back on the other.

Maynes bus tours – meet the Pentland Ferry

Pentland ferries

Northlink ferries

Walks and adventures for children and dogs

The Fairy Glen at Latheronwheel is an enchanting place for smaller children and it’s a wonderful short sniff walk for your dog, through the woods and by the river up the strath.

Dunnet Forrest is the perfect walk when the wind gets up. A fabulous sniff walk for your dog, with statues for children to spot as you walk through.

Histories and mysteries

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is a ruined castle perched on a sea-stack, with a bloody history of men and women who’d have been right at home in Game of Thrones.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

Camster Cairns is just one of a series of neolithic places to explore, but probably the most atmospheric. See the website for the full trail.

Brochs are mysterious towers from Scotland’s dark ages – were they fortresses, or were they farms? Find out more at the Caithness Broch Project.

Ousdale Broch is down a steep hill overlooking the sea.

Dunbeath Broch is at the end of a walk of about a mile up Dunbeath Strath. A great way for kids to stretch their legs and dogs to sniff to their hearts’ content.

Jake in Dunbeath Strath
Jake in Dunbeath Strath

Ardvassal Broch is in the middle of a wood in someone’s garden! (The house is private, so please don’t go father than the broch).

Big open beaches

Every beach is wonderful, and every one is different. It seems simplest to say where to park, and let you discover them yourselves.

Horse on Dunnet Beach
Horse on Dunnet Beach

The best walks with your best friend

All of the walks and beaches above are favourite of our dogs, and here are a couple more they love.

The Big Burn is in Golspie, so it’s in Sutherland. But it’s such a good walk up the strath to some waterfalls that it’s a perfect stop on the way to Caithness.

Rumster Forrest is an out of the way walk which is magical on a summer evening. Watch out for fungi.

There is just so much here –  For example, I haven’t mentioned Whaligoe Steps (w3w: ///incorrect.playful.training), Badbea Clearance Village (w3w: ///songbook.bitter.doormat),  Achavanich Stone Circle (w3w: ///chase.folders.expecting), Duncansby Stacks (w3w: ///playoffs.boils.teaspoons), Dunnet Head lighthouse (w3w: ///decorate.blockage.grab), our own Noss Head lighthouse (w3w: ///flannel.packages.clarifies), or the Unknown sculpture in Borgie Glen, which is in Sutherland, but is not to be missed (w3w: ///film.waggled.chemistry).

You’ve come a long way! Get out of your vehicle, stretch your legs and your back, and explore Caithness!


About me

BenMy name is Ben, and I fell in love with Caithness when we saw a lighthouse cottage for sale at Noss Head. We welcomed our first guests to the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage in September 2018.

I love helping others enjoy this wonderful place, so writing this post has been a pleasure for me. We live next door, and welcome couples, families and children and dogs for restful breaks and family adventures.

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