By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 29th May 2018

Explore the fishing villages along the east coast!

One of the most rewarding elements of exploring off the beaten track of the North Coast 500 is the abundance of charming fishing villages which lie just a short distance from the main route, particularly along the east coast. Featuring small harbours and an abundance of history and heritage dating back to when Scotland’s fishing industry was at its peak, these villages are best explored on foot, so take a detour off the main NC500 route, park the car and enjoy walking through these delightful coastal towns.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to some of the North Coast 500’s most wonderful fishing villages, including advice on what to see and do while you’re there.

Portmahomack, Easter Ross

This picturesque village is located on the Tarbat Peninsula and is the perfect starting point for completing the Tarbat Ness Walk. As you complete this wonderful coastal circuit of the Tarbat Ness headland on foot, you may be fortunate enough to spot dolphins and seals off the grassy shorelines – and you’ll also pass the beautiful Tarbat Ness lighthouse. When you return to Portmahomack, visit the Tarbat Discovery Centre – a local heritage museum, learning and activity centre, which is open between April and October each year – or play a round of golf close by.

Andrew Dowsett photography: Portmahomack

Portmahomack benefits from its own micro climate – being one of the driest places along the North Coast 500..and in Scotland! Stop off for some hand-made ice cream at Seaweed n Stuff in the charming fishing village of Rockfield; accessed via a single track road. No run-of-the-mill flavours here! Tuck into their strawberry & rose flavoured ice cream or purchase their strawberry & pimm’s preserve!.

Golspie, Sutherland

Once a small fishing hamlet, Golspie’s long, sandy beach draws visitors from far and wide. With easy access to the beautiful Dunrobin Castle, the beautiful village of Golspie boasts a number of scenic walks, including a route which will lead you to the stunning waterfalls at Big Burn, Golspie – well worth exploring. If you are the arty type, visit Golspie Gallery – they specialise in textiles, jewellery, local art and Scottish furniture. You can even take part in one of their jewellery or print making classes. Alternatively, if you are in to mountain biking – Golspie has world class mountain bike trails to discover!

Andrew Dowsett Photography: Big Burn, Golspie

Helmsdale, Sutherland

While you’re in Helmsdale, learn about the history of this pretty town and its picturesque harbour at the Timespan Heritage Centre – Sutherland’s only public contemporary art gallery, and a cultural hub for creative development. The natural harbour here has been in place since ancient times, although the majority of the houses here were built in the early 1800s to relocate crofters who had been evicted from their properties during the Highland Clearances. If you have longer to spend in Helmsdale, try gold panning up the Kildonan river, or spend some time angling: the river Helmsdale is one of the finest salmon fishing rivers in the North Highlands. Roger from TroutQuest can provide advice or instruction around various parts of the north Highlands.

Lybster, Caithness

You’ll pass through Lybster as you make your way north-east along the NC500 towards Wick. To reach the heart of the village, turn off the wide main road and descend towards the impressive harbour. Visit Lybster’s heritage centre to learn more about the history of the harbour and the village as a whole; formerly a major herring port, Lybster is now perhaps best known for hosting the ‘World Knotty Championships’ – a variation of shinty.

Lybster Harbour by Land of Light Photography

Wick, Caithness

Did you know that Wick actually consists of two towns? The town of Wick lies to the north of the Wick river, while south of the river is Pulteneytown, which was founded in 1808 as the fishing industry along Scotland’s east coast continued to grow. To get an overview of Wick, Pulteneytown and the history of the surrounding areas, take the clifftop walk from the small fishing village of Staxigoe towards the Castle of Old Wick via Noss Head Lighthouse, the construction of which was overseen by Alan Stevenson, the uncle of novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. Uncover three generations of Caithness at Wick Heritage Museum and learn about the heyday of the herring industry. Alternatively, discover the harbours from a different perspective with Caithness Seacoast’s powerboat!

Photo: Ian Horne, Wick

Explore more villages in Easter Ross

Sheltered by the mountains to the west, Easter Ross presents a greener aspect to the Highlands on the rolling coastal lands overlooking the Cromarty Firth.

Easter Ross sits on the east coast of the North Coast 500 and offers unparalleled views across the waters to Aberdeenshire which can be seen from the shores of Portmahomack, Milton and Cadboll.

Brimming with interesting towns and villages such as Alness, Invergordon and Tain and all offer a different take on Easter Ross life.

There are plenty things to do in the Easter Ross area – what will you add to your itinerary?

Did you know the majority of distilleries are on the east coast. Check out our Whisky Heritage Discovery Tour


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