As you wind your way north through the spectacular landscapes of Sutherland to the far northern reaches of Scotland it is worth delaying your road trip up the NC500 and stop for a while in the east coast village of Golspie to explore the Moray and Dornoch Firths. Here are my favourite things to do at Golspie – including how to visit Dunrobin Castle.
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Things to do in Golspie
Just one hour north of the highland capital of Inverness, sits the small village of Golspie. Now a popular stopping point on the North Coast 500 for a visit to the spectacular Dunrobin Castle, Golspie is also a great place to stay for a weekend break – why not check into the Birdwatcher’s Cabin to explore?
Stay in the Birdwatcher’s Cabin on Loch Fleet near Golspie
At The Birdwatcher’s Cabin on Loch Fleet, all is quiet. The North Coast 500 might be right outside your door, but hidden on its own beach, the silence at Birdwatcher’s Cabin is only interrupted by the whistling cry of an osprey taking flight over Loch Fleet’s endless stretch of sand dunes, mudflats, and 100-year-old Scots pinewoods.
Loch Fleet is home to some of Scotland’s rarest residents – the aforementioned ospreys, along with clouds of crossbills, greedy pine martens, red squirrels and Scottish wildcats – and a beautiful cabin sitting on the loch. Book the Birdwatchers Cabin
More places to stay near Golspie
In Dornoch – book The Holiday Cottage with 2 bedrooms and a hot tub.
Explore the amazing Dunrobin Castle, Golspie
A gorgeous stately home just outside Golspie,Dunrobin Castle has lovely gardens – with the design copied from Versailles! Dunrobin Castle is the historic family seat of the Earls of Sutherland, chiefs of Clan Sutherland and is a popular spot for Instagrammers – the castle looks like it just fell out of a fairy tale!
Did you know that Dunrobin Castle has its own perfectly cute train station (a request stop on the on the Far North Line from Inverness to Thurso and Wick) which is open when the castle is open for visitors.
Dunbrobin holds falconry displays every day – it is well worth timing your visit to hear the history of falconry in Scotland and around the world – and watch just how fast the peregrine falcon will swoop over your head! The castle is open from 11.00 until 4.00pm daily, with the falconry displays at 11.30 and 2.00pm.
Dunrobin is open from 1st April – 31st October and costs £14 for adults and includes entry to the Castle, Museum, Falconry and Gardens. Plan your visit to Dunrobin Castle.
Visit the strange Fyrish Monument
One of the NC500’s hidden gems, the view from the Fyrish Monument is well worth the 3 hour round trip walk for the views along the Sutherland coast.
The monument was built 1783 and paid for by Sir Hector Munro – the local laird. A navy commander, defeated by Dutch at the Battle of Negapatam in India during the Anglo-French Wars, Sir Hector returned to the Scottish Highlands during the clearances. To help feed the hungry (food was only available in return for work) Sir Hector commissioned the monument, a replica to the gates of Negapatam. Climb up to the Fyrish Monument.
Don’t miss dolphin watching near Golspie
It is estimated that around 130 Bottlenose Dolphins live in the waters off East Sutherland and Easter Ross. The best place to see the dolphins mucking around is Chanonry Point on the Black Isle north of Inverness.The best time to see Dolphins is on an incoming/rising tide which brings in the food for the dolphins.
Climb up the Big Burn to Ben Bhraggie above Golspie
Blink and you’d miss the car park, but just past Golspie are the beautiful waterfalls and woodlands along the Big Burn, an easy, but spectacular, walk for all the family. Follow the glen along wooden walkways to find the waterfalls which pore over the cliff edges in this mini tropical rainforest glen.
If you are feeling more energetic why not take your bike down the longest mountain bike trail in Scotland on Ben Bhraggie – or you could climb to the top for a view – and to visit ‘the mannie’, Golspie’s infamous statue atop of the hill.
Discover Loch Fleet and Balblair Woods
Just fancy a stroll? Walk around Loch Fleet to Little Ferry and explore Balblair Woods. You might spot Ospreys and Crossbills in the trees, along with red squirrels, and lots of birdlife out on the loch. There is a lovely hide to discover – don’t forget your binoculars. You can also walk from Balblair woods all the way along the coast to Dunrobin Castle. You will also spot common and harbour seals out on the loch’s sandbanks.
Try the local Sutherland whisky distilleries and brews
East Sutherland is home to three whisky distilleries. Glenmorangie is one of Scotland’s most famous brands, and there is a visitor centre just outside Tain. Other local whisky distilleries include Balblair Distillery, which has one of the oldest archive records of whisky in distilling, and the recently upgraded Clynelish Distillery who make most of the whisky for Johnnie Walker Gold and their own very nice 14 year old malt. Cylnelish does a fantastic tour and has a lovely bar overlooking the sea.
There will soon be another local distillery – look out for Dunrobin Castle’s own distillery launching soon. If you prefer beer then make sure you stop at the Black Isle Brewery to pick up some craft ale.
Dornoch is a pretty Victorian seaside town, home to the famous Royal Dornoch Golf Course, a championship links course with incredible views over the Dornoch Forth. The town itself has a lovely bookshop, lots of clothes and craft shops, a great butcher and lovely coffee and lunches served at Milk and Honey. There is also a 19th century jail now operating as a gift shop, Historylinks – Dornoch’s museum and a cathedral. Dornoch also has a fabulous beach – just the other side of the golf course – see if you can spot Dunrobin Castle from the shore! More information on visiting Dornoch.
Find the delicious Highland Fine Cheeses from Tain
A farm-based artisan cheese maker, Highland Fine Cheeses are made just outside of Tain and can be found in all good shops across the area – we picked up ours from Bannermans Wholefoods in Tain. Try their Skinny Crowdie, Black Crowdie, Caboc, Morangie Brie, Highland Brie, Minger, Fat Cow, Blue Murder, Strathdon Blue and Tain Cheddar.
Visit Anta for fabulous ceramics and fabrics (and great coffee)
Anta is famous across the world for its pretty ceramics and beautiful fabrics – and you can visit their factory shop just outside Tain. There is a cafe on site serving great coffees and lunches (check before travelling) and the shop is dog friendly. Visit Anta.
Discover Easter Ross and the Tarbat peninsula
To the east of Tain is the Easter Ross peninsula, a quiet, windswept haven away from the world. Discover Portmahomack with its lovely beach and harbour (head for lunch at the Carnegie Cafe) before visiting the Tarbat Ness Lighthouse, then drive the Pictish Trail to find the beautiful scultpural Easter Ross Standing Stones, before discovering the Mermaid of the North (by local artist Steve Hayward) and then the Nigg Bay RSPB Nature Reserve, home to thousands of birds.
Read next: how to drive the North Coast 500
I’m Kate – a travel writer and photographer living in Scotland. Love, From Scotland is the Scotland travel guide that shows you where to stay and how to get outside in Scotland.