Coastal village with excellent heritage centre that brings the Highland past to life...
North of Brora is the former herring port of Helmsdale, which gets busy in the summer. The village is most notable for its excellent Timespan Heritage Centre, which brings the history of the Highlands to life through a series of high-tech displays, sound effects and an audiovisual programme. There is also a cafe and shop on site. Info - Easter-Oct Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1400-1700, £4, concession £2, children £1.75, Tel. 821327.
North from Helmsdale the A9 climbs spectacularly up the Ord of Caithness and over the pass enters a desolate, treeless landscape; an area devastated during the Clearances. To get some idea of the hardships people had to endure, stop at the ruined crofting village of Badbea, just beyond Ousdale. At Berriedale a farm track leads west to the Wag, from where you can climb Morven (2,313 ft), the highest hill in Caithness, with amazing views across the whole county.
Phone code: +44 (0)1431
Local Sights & Activities for Helmsdale
The Tourist Information Centre, Tel. 821640, is on the south side of the village, by the A9. Apr-Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1700.
The centre also includes a model of Barbara Cartland, which may seem incongruous, until you venture across the road to the La Mirage tearoom and see the lady herself in the flesh (pink, of course) - or so it seems. The proprietrix is the inimitable Nancy Sinclair, who has modelled herself, and her tearoom, on the queen of romantic novels. The whole effect is pure kitsch and you never know who might pop in for a plate of fish and chips. Daily 1200-2045 (Dec-Apr till 1900).
Helmsdale Hotels & Accommodation
Another good place to eat is the Navidale House Hotel, Tel. 821258, open Feb-Nov. There are also several B&Bs, including Broomhill House, Tel. 821259, with its distinctive turret; and Torbuie, Tel. 821424, in Navidale, about a mile south. There's also an SYHA Youth Hostel, Tel. 821577, open mid-May to early Oct.