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A Walk Around Holborn Head

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by Lindsay Law (subscribe)
I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published October 29th 2012
The best wiews in Caithness
I've covered two enjoyable walks starting in Thurso in a previous article, but on a fine day this one from Scrabster around Holborn Head has even more spectacular views.

There's a bench right out at the end of the Head, which looks out towards Orkney and the sea, so you can easily take a packed lunch and enjoy your sandwiches and the view. Alternatively, you could take a spot of tea in Scrabster at Cups Tearoom.

The Bench at the End of the World
One lonely bench sits at the end of Holborn Head, looking out over to Orkney. Why not keep it company for a picnic?

Holborn Head, Scrabster - 7.5km

WARNING: The cliffs on this walk are not fenced off and it can get extremely wild and windy. Please do take care, especially if you have young children or dogs. I would advise keeping dogs on a lead and never letting children wander off.

This is a circular route which starts in Scrabster. If you're feeling very energetic you can do this walk straight after the previous one, as you are in the perfect starting point. On a sunny day you should be fine with walking shoes or trainers. If it has been raining the ground can get very boggy, so you would need proper walking boots, or wellies.

Holborn Head Lighthouse
Looking back to Holborn Head Lighthouse from the start of the walk, with Thurso in the distance over the bay.

In Scrabster, keep to the left and head round the harbour until you reach the gate marked Holborn Head.

You'll be heading up a road towards a light house, which is now decommissioned as a light and is a private dwelling-place. We were doing this walk partly to show our two children the light house, which my husband grew up in. His father was the keeper there before the light was decommissioned.

Principal Keeper's Cottage
This is the Principal Keeper's Cottage. The way up onto Holborn Head is just to the left of the cottage, through a small, wooden gate.

You can either go along the side of the lighthouse garden, but this is a bit of a clamber, or you can go through the gate at the side of the Principal Lighthouse Keeper's cottage, which is the route that we chose.

The route is easy to follow out towards the end of the headland. There are little concrete bridges over the worst of the marshes and little rivers running down to the sea.

A Little River
This is a view of one the small streams. They are all bridged, so there is no requirement for wellies on a summer's day.

There are stiles allowing you to climb over fences, but that's the most challenging component of the walk.

A Stile on Holborn Head
My daughter, Lori, climbing over one of the stiles on Holborn Head. Copyright: Lindsay Law, 2012

On a clear day you'll be able to see across to Dunnet Head. A useful piece of information for pub quizzers and trivia fans is that despite John O' Groats's fame as the starting point for trips from end to end of the UK, it's actually Dunnet Head that's the most Northerly point of the mainland. It was a warm, sunny autumn afternoon when we walked round and we could also see all the way to Orkney, bathed in golden sunlight.

Dunnet Head
A beautiful view over calm seas to mainland Britain's most Northerly point, Dunnet Head

Just before the cairn that marks Holborn Head, you can cross a narrow bridge known locally as the Diel's Brig (Devil's Bridge). It's quite slippery when it's been wet, so we chose to take the children safely around the top.

The Diel's Brig
A view looking down to The Diel's Brig and back towards Scrabster and Thurso.

We chose to retrace our steps and head back the way we came because the children were getting tired. However, you could follow the route around the cliffs to see some really spectacular sights like a gloup (a natural arch) and a sea stack. The cliffs are very high, and most are not fenced off in this area so do take care as you head past the Turrets and a deep geo (an inlet caused by erosion).

The Cairn at Holborn Head
A view over towards Orkney, showing the Cairn that marks the headland of Holborn Head

You'll see the fence here where you need to turn inland, over rough moorland, which will take you back towards the cliffs towering over Scrabster. At the Caithness Stone Sculpture, which will be on your right, climb over the gate and then make your way down the stone steps to the harbour road.

Then you can either get the bus back into town, or follow my Thurso to Scrabster walk along the beach or the road and back into Thurso.
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Why? Beautiful views to Dunnet Head and Orkney
Where: Holborn Head Lighthouse, Scrabster
Cost: Free
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