By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 24th May 2018

The Tarbat Peninsula Walk

While exploring the North Coast 500, one of the most rewarding things we recommend doing is to venture off the beaten track, detour from the 516 miles of famous coastline, and discover all the wonderful scenery, attractions and walks that the North Highlands have to offer, just a short distance from the main route.

The Tarbat Peninsula in Easter Ross lies just off A9, on route to Tain, along the east coast of the NC500 – and the best way to see all that this area of natural beauty has to offer is on foot. The Tarbat Peninsula divides the Dornoch Firth and the Moray Firth, both of which can be seen if you complete the Tarbat Ness Walk, a wonderful coastal circuit of the Tarbat Ness headland, beginning and ending in the picturesque village of Portmahomack.

The origins of Portmahomack can be traced back to 800AD; the town was established by St Colmac, who on arrival, set up a priory. The town’s original church was built on the site of the priory in 1255, which was then replaced in 1756 by what is now known as the Old Tarbat Parish Church. Today, this building houses the Tarbat Discovery Centre – a local heritage museum, learning and activity centre, which is open between April and October each year. Here, you’ll gain a fascinating insight into the Pictish history of the area, and how this unique early culture helped shape the village as it is today.


Photos: Andrew Dowsett Photography, Portmahomack

Portmahomack is one of many fishing villages along the east coast of the NC500 which grew during the 19th century, while the fishing industry was at its peak. During the 1830s, more than 100 fishing boats were based in the harbour, supporting a significant onshore fish curing industry – although only a small number of these boats remain today. Latterly, Portmahomack’s beach has overtaken the harbour in popularity, although this broad, sandy bay peppered with rock pools is rarely overcrowded.

As you leave Portmahomack to begin the Tarbat Ness Walk, stop to take in the views across the Firth and over the Sutherland hills, towards Golspie and Brora. By following the road past the Tarbat Discovery Centre for around three miles, you’ll reach the very tip of the peninsula and, of course, Tarbat Ness itself, upon which sits one of the tallest lighthouses in mainland Britain. More than 40 metres in height, the Tarbat Ness Lighthouse was constructed in 1830 by Robert Stevenson, the uncle of novelist Robert Louis Stevenson.

As you complete this wonderful coastal circuit and head further south and west, you may be fortunate enough to spot seabirds, dolphins and seals off the grassy shorelines – this area has a rich abundance of wildlife.

Photos: Andrew Dowsett Photography, Tarbat Ness Lighthouse

For more information about Portmahomack and the Tarbat Ness Walk, visit

Tell us about your favourite spots along the Tarbat Peninsula Walk – or share your photos with us over on our social media pages.

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