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Caithness - The Land of Castles


Caithness has innumerable historic places yet to be discovered by visitors, but people living there are well acquainted with these places. With around 150 Broch sites, Caithness is regarded as the Broch central. Though a lot of cliff-top sites have almost vanished and some are crumbling, yet there are many ancient structures left which are worth visiting. It is the historic local government area of Scotland and is a registration county and lieutenancy area presently.

Brief History

A lot of controversies and disputes continued for long time to get the sovereignty over Caithness which led to conflicts between Scotland and the Norwegian Earldom of Orkney. Finally in 1196, monetary tribute was paid by Earl Harald Maddarsone for Caithness to William I. After the Treaty of Pert, Caithness was recognized as a Scottish territory by the Norwegians.

It is believed that one of the earlier inhabitants of Caithness were Picts, and their language is still untraced. There are supposed to be seven Pictish kingdoms in Alba, out of which one was the kingdom of Cait which is now the area of Caithness and Sutherland.

Later on, the Norse occupied Caithness which led to the development of Norn language. The most widespread language spoken in Caithness was Scottish Gaelic and remained a major language till the 19th century. In the western parts of the county, some people still speak this language.

The varied and unique natural heritage of Caithness is a consequence of the distinctive geology, climate and ancient history of human occupations.

In 1890, Caithness was made a local government county and had its own county council which came under the Local Government Act of Scotland 1889.  The burghs of Wick and Thurso which formed an integral part of Scotland were treated as autonomous local government areas. The royal burgh of Wick became an administrative centre for the county. However, in 1975 Caithness was made one of the eight districts of Scotland and had its own district council. Under the act of 1994, Scotland became a unitary local government area in 1996.

Geographically, Caithness stretches about 30 miles from north to south and about the same distance from east to west. In contrast to the rest of the Northern Scotland, the topography of Caithness is largely flat. This flat topography was even more surprising when trees and forests were present in this region. However, plantation of coniferous trees was done in the latter part of 20th century.

The landscape of Caithness reflects the pre-historic occupations of the region. Some of these famous sites are- The Grey Cairns of Camster, the Stone Lud, Hill O Many Stones and the over 150 brochs, some popular and some undiscovered.

Unfortunately, a vast number of coastal castles have been damaged and destroyed, only ruins of which can be seen now. The architecture can also be seen as influenced by Goidelic culture and the Celtic Church. This was during the Pictish times though later on the Norse settlers occupied the coasts of Caithness. 

Open farmlands, moorlands and scattered settlements are a common scene in Caithness. The dramatic and wonderful coastal beauty in the north eastern Caithness is enriched even more by the presence of marine life there. If you move away from the coast, you’ll find the blanket bog also referred to as the Flow Country, which stretches up to Sutherland also including some part of it.