Dunnet Bay Distillery and other nearby NC500 attractions

We are lucky to be situated right next door to the mainland’s most northerly Gin Distillery, Dunnet Bay Distillers which is a family business producing the award winning Rock Rose Gin & Holy Grass Vodka.

Cream Tea & Tour

Afternoon Tea & Tour

Evening tours available every Wednesday from April – August. Make a lovely evening out and book in for dinner at the Northern Sands after your tour. The daily tours at 11am & 2pm make a great day with lunch or afternoon tea with us. Our afternoon tea is available with Rock Rose gin at a discounted price all year round of £16.95 pp.

They look forward to welcome you on a wee tour to explore their distillery and discover their spirits! Join them at the distillery to learn a little more about the spirits, the botanicals, Elizabeth and Margaret – the fabulously shiny stills! Enjoy a delicious Rock Rose gin & tonic by the fireside before walking over to see where the magic all happens. A tutored tasting of the delicious spirits around their banquet table and a wee surprise concludes your tour!

Tours last around 1 hour and cost £15 per head. Children under 18 are free but will not be permitted to sit at the tasting table.

Tours are available to book onlinewww.dunnetbaydistillers.co.uk

Tours run every Saturday in January and February 2020 @ 11am & 2pm
Tours run daily from 2nd March to 30th November 2020 (except Sundays) @ 11am & 2pm

Evening tours every Wednesday from April – August 2020 @ 6pm

Shop Opening Times

Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm

Around Dunnet on the NC500

The Northern Sands is perfectly placed with excellent indoor & outdoor activities within a few miles of the Dunnet Area and provides a great base for all outdoor pursuits from Walking, Fishing, Bike Riding, Horse Riding, Painting, Bird Watching, Wildlife Viewing & Photography.

Dunnet Beach – A two minute walk from our front door lies Dunnet Beach, a sweeping white sandy beach stretching for over 2 miles. The bay offers great opportunities to sunbathe, paddle, swim, surf and indulge in many other sports.  Also, the most Northerly Surf Lessons in Scotland are at Dunnet at www.northcoastwatersports.com

Dunnet Forest – The most northerly community woodland on the UK mainland. Popular forest with tourists & locals alike, lots of sheltered walking paths for all different abilities.

Dunnet Head – Going up from our beach, situated 5 miles outside the village of Dunnet is the mainland’s most northerly point, Dunnet Head – this aerial image shows the Northern Sands Hotel (nearest buildings) and the top of mainland. Near the Dunnet Head lighthouse are minor fortifications built during World War II to protect the naval base at Scapa Flow, including a Chain Home Low radar station and a bunker used by the Royal Observer Corps during the Cold WarBurifa Hill on Dunnet Head was the site of the master station and a monitoring station of the northern GEE chain of radio navigation stations during World War II. There was also an artillery range on Dunnet Head during World War II.

Dunnet Head is the best viewing point for sea life, many orcas & dolphins have been spotted from there. Northern Sands is proud to support the Sea Watch Foundation, have a look on their page www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk to view recent sightings.

Mary Ann's Cottage near Northern Sands Hotel

Mary Ann’s Cottage near the Hotel

Fishing – Many local lochs offer fishing permits. These are available from CH Haygarth & Sons Fishing Tackle shop, located on the main A836 road in the village of Dunnet.

Mary Ann’s Cottage –  Less than a mile lies Mary Ann’s Cottage. Mary Ann’s Cottage is a living reminder of what life was like not so long ago in Caithness. This croft which was built in around 1850 has been preserved as it was lived in by Mary-Ann Calder, who until she was 89 lived in the croft and cooked using peat over an open range fire. The cottage has not changed much since the 1930’s or earlier. It is now owned by the Caithness Heritage Trust who provide guided tours of the cottage from June to September from 2pm to 4.30pm (closed on Mondays). This is a must visit for anyone who is interested in Scottish heritage and old crofting lifestyles. When you visit Mary-Ann’s cottage on a lovely warm sunny day it is easy to be drawn into the romantic idea that crofting was a wonderful way to live, it was a hard life for many crofters who had to try and make a living from the land and to raise food for themselves. There is a small charge for viewing the Cottage.

Castle of Mey – A few miles up the coast you will find the late Queen Mother’s Caithness residence – the Castle of Mey, where she and her family spent time relaxing. The Castle & Gardens are open to the public during the summer and are definately worth a visit. There is also an animal centre, visitor centre & café on site.

Castle of Mey near Northern Sands Hotel

Castle of Mey a few miles up the coast


Nearby Thurso is the commercial heart of Caithness and the centre for many resources including outdoor activities such as surfing and kayaking with several restaurants, bars and tourism destinations.  A prerequisite for most people visiting the area is a trip to John o’Groats where you can have your photograph taken against a landmark to prove your visit, or simply browse the numerous local craft and souvenir shops for mementos. Wildlife boat trips are also available.

If you want to travel further afield then there are many gems littered around Caithness, from the historic past to the technological future, from nature and activities to shopping and relaxation. You should be able to find something to suit.

Local website Inspired by Caithness has a great page called 10 Outdoor Family Adventures in Caithness: Whatever The Weather – [10 things here]

There is much wildlife and even seals, whales and dolphins off-shore to spot.  For the bird watching enthusiasts there is much to see in the area with puffins at the coast.

Orkney’s Standing Stones from 5,000 years ago

Another attraction is The Broch Project, an exciting charity Promoting, preserving and ensuring a lasting legacy for the archaeology of Caithness.  And for ailor-made tours around Caithness offer a unique experience allowing time just for you www.aboveandbeyondtours.co.uk.

Finally, whatever you have found to do during the day, you can return to the Hotel knowing you’re in for a relaxing time and delicious food

Day Trips and the North Coast 500

Orkney – You can even leave the mainland behind completely! Picture shows Chapel built by Italian PoWs, but Orkney has several millennium of history with Scara Brae showing a settlement approximately 5,000 years old and the ancient Standing Stones of Stenness. Take one of the day trips to the Orkney Islands. Regular ferries leave from nearby Gills harbour, John O’Groats and the Scrabster terminal.

West Highlands – West Highland’s Locations profit from the gulf stream to provide superb, almost tropical plants in places coupled with a dramatic craggy coastline and spectacular sunsets like this one at Scourie

North Coast 500 –  travellers are increasingly using the Northern Sands Hotel but we have always been well placed as a base for a North Highlands holiday. Many impressive features highlighted by the NC500 make ideal day trips from the Northern Sands on foot or by car.

Further afield on the NC500 –  The official NC500 Page has an excellent site to help plan your trip www.northcoast500.com/explore-the-route   A useful Facebook page is here www.facebook.com/scotlandsroute66