By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 6th June 2018

Discover Dornoch

Stay a while or set up base from Dornoch and explore the North Coast 500 – with so much to see and do, it’s more than an overnight stop.

“Discover delightful Dornoch on Sutherland’s south east coast on your North Coast 500 journey. With historic buildings, its world famous golf course, a host of activities and interesting places nearby, you really can Do it all from here.” Joan Bishop (The Dornoch Area Community Interest Company)

Photo: The Dornoch Area Community Interest Company, Dornoch Cathedral

The historic destination of Dornoch lies on the East Coast of Sutherland just two miles from the route of the NC500. Entering the town by Castle Street you will pass the War Memorial and notice that many of the buildings are constructed using the beautiful locally quarried golden sandstone.

On reaching the centre of Dornoch you will find that the town is dominated by the 13th Century Dornoch Cathedral built by Bishop Gilbert de Moravia.

Much of the original Cathedral was destroyed by fire during the clan feuding in the 16th Century and the present building is the result of restoration projects which were completed by the Duchess of Sutherland in 1837. The Cathedral welcomes visitors to walk round and admire the wonderful stained glass windows  or simply sit and ponder the magnificent architecture.

Just across the road you will see Dornoch Castle which is now a hotel. Bishop Gilbert’s brother Richard occupied Dornoch Castle before he was killed at the Battle of Embo in about 1260. Richard was allegedly murdered with the severed leg of a horse. His sarcoficous can be seen in the Cathedral.

Tucked behind the castle is Historylinks Museum. Here you will discover 7000 years of the area’s turbulent history! The museum has digital displays, films of the railway and a replica of the Golf Professional’s workshop at Royal Dornoch. You can also explore the stories of Janet Horne,the last alleged witch to be executed in Scotland, Sigurd the Viking and discover the history behind the Highland Clearances. There is loads for the kids to do including dressing up and quizzes.

Photo: Highlands Museum Forum, dress up like a viking

On leaving the Museum, pick up their Trail Guide and enjoy a self-guided tour around the town.

Dornoch has always been a market town and on the High Street next to the Cathedral you will see the Merkat Cross. It is believed that this pillar of stone has been in place for over 500 years and marks the area where weekly markets were held in Medieval times and up until the 17th Century. These days the Dornoch community market is held on the Cathedral Green once a fortnight during the Summer months. Dornoch also hosts the annual Wemyss and St. Andrews fairs and on a Saturday night you can enjoy the pipe band parade in the Square.

Dornoch is a town bursting with interesting independent shops and great places to eat and stay. From The Jail and Country Interiors to other gift shops and bookshops, charity shops and candle shops. The town also enjoys a Whisky and food festival in late October. There really is something for everyone. After shopping you might like to enjoy a hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain, or coffee and lunch at one of  their cafes and restaurants. You are spoiled for choice with restaurants offering pub food or fine dining. A real treat is afternoon tea at Links House Hotel.


Another significant building is the Railway Station. The line was built in the early 20th Century connecting the main Wick and Thurso on line to Dornoch via a seven mile branch line. Rail travel made Dornoch a popular holiday destination with tourists visiting the town to enjoy the golf courses and take in the sea air. The line closed in the 1960s but the station building remains and the disused line provides a pleasant walk to the fishing village of Embo. The line passes Dornoch’s famous golf club were visitors still flock to play the championship and Struie courses. In 2016 the club celebrated 400 years of golf in Dornoch.

Of course a real must is a visit to the long sandy beach, scattered with rock pools and wonderful views across the Firth to Tarbet Ness Lighthouse, it is the perfect place to relax and take in the spectacular scenery.

Author: Dornoch: History Links Museum

Video: The Dornoch Area Community Interest Company

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