Wick to Inverness
Heading out of Wick , the Whaligoe Steps just south of Ulbster should be visited. 330 steps cut into the hillside which were used to take fish landed at a small inlet to market. Lybster heritiage centre located at the harbour in the waterlines building is worth a visit , also lybster main street must be one of the widest in Britain.
Further south beyond the Berridale Braes we arrive in Helmsdale and the Timespan Heritage Centre.
A detour to Kildonan allows for the opportunity to pan for gold as this area was the scene of the gold rush in 1869, you can hire equipment in Helmsdale and try your luck. Gold is still being found today.
The village was once the main industrial centre in Sutherland. It was the site of one of the earliest coal mines in Scotland and during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries this industry included a quarry (which provided the stone to build amongst others Dunrobin Castle, London Bridge and Liverpool Cathedral), a brick works, woolen mill and distillery as well as the more traditional occupations such as crofting and fishing. One unusual by-product of all this Victorian industry was that Brora became the first community in the Highlands to have its own electricity supply.
Today, very little remains of these industires apart from Clynelish Distillery to the north of the village. This distillery was established by the Duke of Sutherland in 1819 so that the local crofters would not be tempted to sell their grain to the many illegal whisky stills in the area.
Between Brora and Golspie is Carn Liath, the Grey Cairn. This broch occupies a terrace overlooking the shore, has walls that are still 12ft high in places, and comes complete with a well preserved entrance passage and lintelled doorway.
The broch lies immediately on the seaward side of the A9 about a mile east of Dunrobin Castle, ie a mile further from Golspie on this almost south-facing stretch of coast. There is signposted parking on the inland side of the A9 just to the west of Carn Liath.
This is one of the grandest houses in the north of Scotland and is situated just north of the village. It is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited homes in Britain, the oldest part of the castle dating from the early fourteenth century. As well as the castle itself, Dunrobin is known for its formal gardens and its almost fairytale appearance.
The town of Dornoch lies a mile or two east of the main A9 road on the coast at the entrance to the Dornoch Firth. There has been a settlement here for many centuries - there is possible evidence of a 6th century church in the centre of the town and there are also records of viking raids in the area. Today it is a picturesque little town that boasts a long sandy beach and there are a number of scenic and woodland walks in the area that offers much for the visitor to see and do. It is home to many old and interesting buildings. The most famous is the Cathedral but there is also a 16th century Bishop's Palace (now a hotel), the old town gaol, the Carnegie library and many historic houses and cottages. The local museum contains displays on the history of the town and its people.
The small but thriving town of Tain, situated on the south shore of Dornoch Firth, is Scotland’s oldest royal burgh.
Steeped in dramatic history and scenic landscape, the town boasts spectacular architecture, a great array of wildlife and a wide range of sporting and leisure activities for everyone.
The many interesting and unusual buildings and hidden-away corners, including the Old Town Hall, the Royal Hotel, the parish church and the museum as well as the more modest houses and commercial premises, were all built by the Maitland family of architects in the late 19th century and have a distinctive appearance.
The town is especially renowned for its wonderful links golf course designed by Tom Morris and the many other courses within easy reach. At the 19th hole players can enjoy a dram of the world-famous Glenmorangie whisky produced at the local distillery which is also well-worth a visit.
Leaving Tain , rather than stay on the A9 south , why not take a detour to the Tarbet Discovery Centre and a trip through the seaboard vilages , terminating at the Nigg Ferry. During summer months there is a small car ferry which shuttles back and forth actross the firth. An opportunity to see some of the Oil Rigs at close quarters
The ferry terminates at Cromarty on the Black Isle. Cromarty itself is an extremely attractive village, a mix of smaller cottages and more substantial buildings designed to house both the workers who fed its prosperity and those whose fortunes were made here.
Three neighbouring buildings in the main street, Church Street, show this well. The first is the imposing Cromarty Courthouse, now home to an excellent community run museum. The second is Miller House, and the third is Hugh Miller's Birthplace Cottage. The last of these is the only thatched cottage left in Cromarty and the interior has been restored as it would have been during the life of Hugh Miller, between 1802 and 1856. Hugh Miller was a stonemason who became interested in geology and fossils; and who also became a notable author and church reformer. The cottage and house together form Hugh Miller's Birthplace Cottage & Museum, operated by the National Trust for Scotland.
From Cromarty Take the A832 to Fortrose and on reaching the village , look for the signs to the golf course/channory Point. This is an idea vantage point for observing the moray firth dolphins and a view across the firth to the imposing Fort George.
From there it’s a short hop to rejoin the A9 and head over the Kessock Bridge to Inverness and the completion of the North Coast 500 , but also some detours to sample the delights of what this part of Scotland has to offer.