5 hidden tourist gems in Caithness and Sutherland

Strathnavar. Picture: Contributed
Strathnavar. Picture: Contributed
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THE northernmost region of the mainland plays host to many famous tourist attractions, but there are some little-known areas visitors should go to.

Here is a selection of some of the best hidden tourist gems in Caithness and Sutherland.

STRATHNAVER TRAIL

The Strathnaver Trail links 29 archaeological sites and also includes the infamous story of the Highland Clearances in the 18th century.

The trail includes the remains of Neolithic horned chamber cairns, Bronze Age cairns and hut circles, Iron Age brochs, Pictish carved stones and pre-Clearance townships.

Along with its prehistoric sites, which have made Strathnaver a favourite venue for university and archaeology society field trips, the area is steeped in the history of the Highland Clearances, where rich landlords evicted tenants to make way for sheep.

READ MORE: 5 hidden tourist gems on Orkney

CAIRN O’GET

Cairn O’Get is a chambered burial cairn set amid a landscape rich in prehistoric and later monuments.

When it was first built, Cairn O’Get’s walls would have risen over three metres high, sealed by massive lintel stones. The entrance to the tomb would have been through a small antechamber, defined by two pairs of large upright stones.

Today the tomb and upright stones are still clearly visible in the landscape.

HILL O’ MANY STANES

While there are many more famous large stone sites in Scotland, there is a little-known location in Caithness where there are about 200 small stones erected in more than 22 rows on hillside moorland.

The Hill o’ Many Stanes consists of small stones arranged in rows running down a low hill. They were erected about 4,000 years ago, possibly for gatherings and religious ceremonies.

such large arrangements of stone rows are said to be rare, and comparable sites are only found in a few places in Europe.

GREY CAIRNS OF CAMSTER

Two of the oldest stone monuments in Scotland are in Caithness.

A pair of Neolithic tombs originally built more than 5,000 years ago, they have been reconstructed in modern times. The Grey Cairns of Camster provide a fascinating insight into Neolithic funerary practices.

The monument consists of a long cairn and a round cairn. The long cairn has two internal chambers and the round cairn a single chamber with three compartments.

The cairns are sited on a windswept moor, in the middle of the famous Caithness ‘Flow Country’ - a location which is believed to have aided the cairns’ preservation.

READ MORE: 5 hidden - but must-see - tourist gems in shetland

FORSINARD FLOWS

The largest expanse of blanket peatland bogs in the world.

Peatlands have vanished across much of Scotland, but the RSPB is helping to preserve and restore this vital area of internationally important habitat.

Peat has been forming here for thousands of years and reaches, in some places, up to five metres in depth.

As well as storing over 400 million tonnes of carbon, this area is a stronghold for a wide variety of wildlife, such as otters, water voles, red deer, mountain hares and hen harriers.

The Dubh Lochan Trail is the best way for families to explore the reserve and to learn about what makes blanket bogs special.