By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 23rd October 2018

Fall in love with Caithness

Photo: Thurso River by Jade Campbell

Caithness is always beautiful, especially at this time of year! A crisp autumn breeze, a crackling log fire and bristling leaves floating delicately towards the ground… Many people are inspired to celebrate this picturesque season with a trip to the Highlands. There is so much to experience in Caithness during autumn, from scenic hiking to visiting local distilleries and plenty of places to stay from cosy treehouses to converted stables, cottages with a sea view and, of course, a historic stay in Ackergill Tower!

We caught up with Ackergill Tower Hotel to find out what you can get up to this autumn as you explore the region of Caithness during your North Coast 500 travels… Find out their top highlights below.


Photos: Ackergill Tower: Smugglers Inn and Europe’s largest Treehouse, Ackergill Tower Hotel

1. Autumn Walks

The Highlands are one of the most beautiful, natural places in all of the UK so it makes perfect sense to see it at its most colourful! Fresh air is good for you and you can’t get fresher than the crisp autumn air in Caithness. Explore the grounds of the Ackergill Estate, stroll along the beach or spend a day exploring old archaeological remains along walking routes listed here.

There is something enchanting about reading the landscape: Caithness may have elegant undulations rather than striking mountains, but its historic environment can be quite dazzling.

2. Cosy Evenings in

After a long day exploring, you’ll need a cosy night in! Enjoy a welcome drink upon arrival at Ackergill Tower, one of the most historic venues in the Highlands, dating back to the 15th century. Spend your evening by the roaring fire, enjoy a ‘pub’ dinner and pint in the cosy and atmospheric Smuggler’s Inn before retiring.


Photo: Ackergill Tower: Smuggler’s Inn & the beach bonfire

3. Enjoy Wildlife

During your stay in the Highlands, you’ll be able to spot some local wildlife from geese flying overhead to the first of the wintering whooper swans, Greenland white-fronted geese and Icelandic greylag geese at the Broubster Leans Reserve. You should also make time for a romantic beach stroll for two, visit NC500’s top 12 beaches for inspiration.


Photos: RSPB Scotland Broubster Leans Reserve’ by Andy Hay and John Bridges (

4. Autumnal Delicacies

Enjoy the seasonal food available at local restaurants, stop for hot chocolates at local cafes and enjoy foraging for food on the wide side for wild berries and juicy plums and apples. Alternatively, celebrate food with the locals at a local farmers market.

If you’re looking for an evening of seasonal food, enjoy private dining at the remarkable Ackergill Tower.

Photo: Ackergill Tower, Dining Hall

5. Starlit Nights

The autumn months mark the beginning of star lit nights – venture up to John o’Groats and Duncansby Stacks for the best views! It’s also the best time to catch a glimpse of the Aurora so be sure to look up during your evenings in Caithness!


Photo: Northern Lights at Ackergill Tower and Brough Bay

6. Spooky Spots

You can’t enjoy Halloween without a few spooky activities! Being one of the oldest spots in Caithness, Ackergill Tower has ghost stories aplenty! One of its earliest occupants was Helen Gunn, known as the ‘Beauty of Braemore’, who was abducted from her home on her wedding night and kept prisoner. To escape her captor, she leapt from the battlements to her death. A stone marks the spot where she fell – and you may even see her ghost roaming the battlements during your stay!

There’s no better place to spend Autumn than in Caithness, on the North Coast 500!

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