5 reasons why Reay is the best kept secret on the NC500
No matter whether you decide to travel the NC500 clockwise or anticlockwise, you're bound to make your way into Reay right at the peak of your journey. Nestled between Thurso and Melvich on the stunning North Coast you'll find our peaceful wee village, packed full of reasons to stay a few days to recharge and reflect during your journey around Scotland. Little known outside of the local area but the ideal base for exploring the beautiful Highlands & Islands, you're sure to receive a warm Caithness welcome when you visit. Read on now to discover just a few of the reasons why Reay is possibly the best kept secret on the North Coast 500...
Reason #1 - Unbeatable location
As the westernmost village in Caithness, Reay is ideally placed to explore both counties of Caithness and Sutherland from a peaceful and quiet home base. Located only eleven miles from Thurso, it's a short trip to all the amenities of the town such as the cinema, pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops - and no rush-hour traffic to worry about in this corner of the world! Heading West, you're only six miles from Melvich where you'll find the most stunning beach and maybe even a hardy cold-water surfer or two. Heading South, away from the main NC500 route, you'll find Strath Halladale - a breathtaking natural valley with wonderful fishing opportunities, crofts and wildlife.
Reason #2 - Incredible history
Where else can you explore the remains of Iron Age roundhouses, Viking parliaments, mysterious standing stones and medieval burial grounds? Often overlooked, the Caithness landscape is rich with the remains of pre-historic occupation. Glimpses of the lives led by Norse, Pictish and Celtic settlers in Caithness are hidden under our feet all over the county - did you know that there are more broch sites in Caithness than anywhere else in Scotland?
Brochs, a unique type of Iron Age roundhouse, can be found scattered across the landscape and hold clues as to how people lived in these remote and barren lands thousands of years ago. Two incredible broch sites are situated very close to Reay: Thing's Va and Achvarasdal.
Things Va lies atop a hill just off the road between Thurso and Reay. This broch was used by the Vikings as their parliament, hence the name - a variation on 'Thing-vollr', Norse for a local court or assembly. The Thurso gallows were once situated near to this site, so it's an area steeped in local history and well worth a walk around while you're visiting the area - if you're brave enough!
Achvarasdal, a 5 minute drive or half-hour walk outside Reay village, boasts some amazing local history with both a Broch and a Cairn within the forest. Still preserved, you'll find the lower parts of the broch walls and even traces of the intramural staircase and the cairn which was likely a burial place of a Celtic or Norse warrior.
Within Reay village, you'll find some more modern historical sites - this time dating back to the comparatively recent 9th Century! The old Reay cemetery consists of a burial ground and the remains of a medieval church, including a cross-slab dating from the late 9th or the 10th century while the category-A listed Reay Parish Church was built in 1739 in a traditional T-shaped style and is still used for Church of Scotland services, weddings and funerals to this day.
Look closely and you'll even find the remains of a mysterious stone circle in the village...
Reason #3 - Scenic views & breathtaking walks
A walk around Reay introduces you to some of most rugged and interesting views the county of Caithness has to offer. Whether it's a stroll along Sandside Beach or into the Limekiln Forest, you'll enjoy unusual and dramatic views of the local landscape - and you're almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself. Keep your eyes peeled for the historic lime kiln tucked away inside the forest (and in early summer you might even hear a cuckoo or two) and for the view of Dounreay's distinctive 'golf ball' silhouette on the other side of Sandside Bay.
Reason #4 - Cosy & luxurious places to stay
No matter where you choose to stay in or around Reay, you will find a warm Caithness welcome and a peaceful nights sleep. One of our favourites is Borlum House, a lovingly restored 1700's farm house, for their luxurious accommodation and friendly farm animals. There is even an electric car hook-up point which is free for guests to use, and if you fancy experiencing some of the pubs or restaurants in Thurso your hosts Chris and Amie will drop you off and then pick you up!
Reason #5 - Your own ‘private’ golf course
How could we neglect to mention the most Northerly 18-hole links course on the British mainland? Reay's very own historic golf course is just waiting for you to enjoy its sprawling links with breathtaking views out over the Pentland Firth. Discover Braid's Choice, the 6th hole named for James Braid the renowned golf course architect who worked his magic on the course back in 1933, or bag your hole-in-one on the 5th, Cnocstanger - but watch out for the pot bunkers and heavy rough lying in wait for a stray ball! Walk right on and the chances are high that you'll have this hidden gem of a course almost to yourself - except perhaps for a few friendly deer and pheasants..
So what are you waiting for? Don't miss your chance to visit Reay while it's still a secret - there's a dram at the 19th hole with your name on it.