Thurso in the far north

I once used my Britrail Pass to see how far I could go on the British mainland, and the most northerly station was at Thurso.

The Scottish town of Thurso is indeed the most northerly town on the British mainland, being just a caber toss south of John O’Groats, the most northerly point on the mainland.

What I didn’t realise about Thurso before I got there is that it is quite a charming town; a bit chilly, as I expected, but it also had a nice warmth about it, that was generated by the welcome given by the locals.

Thurso is actually a Norse name, meaning Thor’s River, and harks back to the days when the town was decidedly more Viking than Scottish.  If you stand on the beach and watch carefully, you can imagine the Viking long ships pulling in to shore.  Actually, there was quite a nice surf there, with quite a good break, and I thought that if I had a surfboard and a wetsuit with about a zillion layers to protect me from the cold North Sea, you could have quite a bit of fun and have every wave to yourself. Sadly, that break has been discovered and Thurso really does attract surfers from all over the world.

Thurso is also the gateway to the Orkney Isles, and on a good day you can see the island of Hoy.  The car ferries to the Orkneys leave from Scrabster, which is close to Thurso.  Scrabster also serves as the main fishing harbour, and good luck to those brave fishermen who ply the turbulent, unpredictable waters in search of whitefish.  In summer, because you’d never want to do the trip in winter, ferries also ply the routes to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway.

Thurso was a medieval town, and some of the buildings from that time remain, but are not in good order.  That said, the many old stone buildings, which represent a mixture of styles from various periods of habitation, are very interesting and just seem to suit their location.

Thurso is very pedestrian friendly, boasting a couple of pedestrian malls, and a walk along the seafront is also interesting.  The town is also the northern starting point for one of the most scenic drives in Scotland, by following the road which meanders its way to Ullapool.

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