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(A Tuath na Gàidhealtachd dòigh)



Park for the night


Issue 1 of our magazine is here.  The front page is of the ultimate in sustainable travel.

If you are travelling to Wick Airport between 24 May 2024 and 2 June 2024, we can help with your trip here.

We can offer a baggage transfer book here.

It all started here

Our virtual information centre at Dunnet is here.


Our virtual information centre at Durness is here.  You can get your passport to the North Highland Way stamped at the post office.


Our sponsors


Up the coast


There are serious problems from Tain going up the coast to John o Groats, so we recommend that you follow this route.  In the summer months, the Caravan and Camping Club have a little information centre for members only.

This is the true North Highland Way, supported by the multi use document from The Highland Council for a route across the north of Scotland.  This page supports the https:// www.friendsofthenorthhighlandway.com where you can subscribe to get offers and other information.  This is part of the Route of the Spanish Armada.  It links in at Balnakiel House.  You can get your passport stamped at the Post Office in Durness.

You can go south to Aberdeenshire on Scotland's Coastal Path

Mission Statement

In an age where many of us feel the world crowds in upon us and where we understand better what keeps us healthy in mind and body, the open spaces of the world assume a new importance. One of the most beautiful spaces in the Northern hemisphere and located in a temperate zone is the North coast of Scotland.  The coast offers many ways to promote human wellbeing and to serve as a safety valve for the pressures of society. Among those ways is simply that of affording access for walkers. Under guidance, walkers may learn how enjoyment of the land is to be shared with farmers, crofters, field sportsmen, birds and plants.

The project founders worked with landowners, public bodies and heritage societies progressively to open up the Northern coast to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. It still aims to set up for Scotland a coastal multi use route (the only one in Scotland) matching that which the National Trust has set up in England and Wales. It aims to designate safe paths, to design decent access to them and to protect the permanent activities on the land from the depredations of the transient visitor. Already small stretches of the coast are open, such as at Dunnet Head and John o Groats. The aim is to learn from these pioneer models, to multiply them and to promote safe transport connections between them.

All this will certainly boost the economy of  coastal communities. The increase in understanding between visitors and residents could be one of the happiest outcomes of the project. A common interest in securing a sustainable way of life will be a source of hope for us all.” 

Head on the North East coast to Cape Wrath in the North West of Scotland's coast. The North Highland Way connects the Cape Wrath Trail (which opened in January, 2013) in the west with the Moray Firth trail in the east.

Route description

The route of the North Highland Way varies in length due to the various options when it comes to walking this particular route. The terrain of the North Highland Way varies hugely, crossing beaches, forests, road and rough paths as well as some remote areas. The Herald reported in June 2020 that "Determined walkers can tackle a route from Duncansby Head to Cape Wrath, but it involves trekking across grassy paths, sheep trails, shoreland and road, and using GPS directions". A more structured trail with defined paths and its own signposts, featuring links to local accommodation and services, was first suggested by local group the Caithness Waybaggers in 1992.

The start of the North Highland Way is located in Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly part of Scotland's mainland, looking out to the Orkney Isles. From Duncansby Head, the route continues west, along Scotland's North coast. This first section of the route passes through the town of John o' Groats and the Castle of Mey. The early stages of the North Highland Way also provide the opportunity to visit Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the British mainland as promoted for many years by the Dunnet Head Educational Trust.


The area around Dounreay is problematic as is the Sutherland Space Hub.

Further stages of the route follow Scotland's North Coast, passing through the towns of Strathy, Bettyhill and Tongue.


John o' Groats

Castle of Mey


Dunnet Head






Cape Wrath




The idea of a North Highland Way has its roots in a proposal for a Caithness Way, made in 1992 by a local group, the Caithness Waybaggers, which formed to pursue the project. The proposed 60-mile (97 km) route would have started at Dunbeath harbour and run via Altnabreac railway station, Westerdale, Halkirk and Thurso to John o' Groats. However, the project met with concerns from farmers and land owners on the route, problems with accommodation and with paths, and suffered from a lack of support.

The idea was revived in 2010 with a proposal for a new 115-mile (185 km) route from John o' Groats to Cape Wrath via Dunnet Head, Holborn Head, Strathy Point and Skerray. The area of the proposed route is one of the few areas of the Highlands to lack a branded distance walking path. An approach was made to the Highland Council and other public bodies seeking their support, and a survey of public opinion was conducted.

Tina Irving, secretary of the Dunnet Head Educational Trust and described by The Herald as "one of the driving forces behind the campaign", was quoted as saying "This is probably not the best time to be looking for public money, so I know we are not going to get the built paths like the West Highland Way or the Great Glen Way. But joining up the core path network that Highland Council had to develop for access under the land reform legislation would be feasible". The project also received support from John Thurso, then the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. However, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who the Dunnet Head Educational Trust had had discussions with, stated in 2010 that the project did not fit its remit for funding.

In 2024, the Enterprise company refused funding again, despite taking the business plan and not understanding that the project is a green project, and qualifies under environmental funding.  They are just determined not to fund as Ms Irving is an incomer.

In October 2013, Ms Irving told The Press and Journal that she thought Highland Council was using "delaying tactics" to avoid providing £14,500 to further develop and market the route, because it did not want to spend money in Caithness. It was reported that Irving had 32 businesses signed up to support the project, and had produced marketing materials to the cost of £4,500. Ms Irving  received three different answers about how to go about requesting funds from the council in three months, but a spokesperson for the council told the newspaper that while it was willing to support the project, it had received no formal grant application and that it could not retrospectively fund the promotional materials Irving had already paid for. However, The Highland Council did fund the consultation document and spend a lot of time with Ms Irving to an estimated £50,000.

In October 2014, Irving told The Herald that a route had been identified on the website, Walking World, but that work was required on conducting a feasibility study, consultation with landowners, a business plan and market studies. The feasibility study and business plan have now been completed but are not in the public domain. A Friends of the North Highland Way group has been formed to raise money from people using the route, for investment in promotional activities.

The Herald further reported that a spokesperson from the Highland Council said Brough Bay Ltd approached the council in late 2013, "as they were unable to continue undertaking the level of work that would be required if this was purely on a voluntary basis.  One would wonder how this is possible without money and business support.  Although they were unable to assist in terms of providing direct funding to an individual company, the Council did recognise that the idea had great potential for the area so agreed to explore other options". According to the Council, attempts to bring local community representatives together had been unsuccessful and "there had been indications that most were not willing to be part of a group to lead the project at this time". Highlands and Islands Enterprise was reported as stating that "We have held informal discussions regarding the North Highland Way but have not received any formal application for assistance". The Enterprise organisation received several formal applications.

By 2020, plans for the route appeared to have stalled. Ms Irving said the requirements from regulatory bodies for costly feasibility studies and a business plan have hampered efforts.

Trail connections

The North Highland Way is intended to connect two other long-distance routes, the Moray Firth Trail and the Cape Wrath Trail, which are marked. The North Highland Way, except for the core path routes, is not marked.


Ross, David (18 October 2014). "Walking route across the top of Scotland fails to make progress". The Herald. Retrieved 23 June 2017.

Dick, Sandra (29 June 2020). "Anger as plans for 115-mile North-Highland Way doomed by 'costly feasibility studies'". The Herald. Retrieved 1 August 2023.

Tina Irving. "The North Highland Way". getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk. Ordnance Survey.


Macphail, Neil (19 March 2010). "Far north route for ramblers planned". Aberdeen Press and Journal. p. 4.

Ross, David (20 March 2010). "First steps are taken for North Highland Way". The Herald. p. 11.

"North Highlands set for 114-mile tourist trail". The Scotsman. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2017.

Paterson, Laura (1 October 2013). "'Council dragging its feet over promoting pathway'". Aberdeen Press and Journal. p. 8.

Further reading

"First steps are taken for North Highland Way". The Herald. 20 March 2010. Archived from the original on 19 November 2018 – via HighBeam Research.

Irving, Tina (2015). Creating the North Highland Way. Ipicturebooks. ISBN 978-1-326-30618-2.


Long-distance footpaths in Scotland

Footpaths in Highland (council area)

This page was last edited on 20 February 2024, at 11:14.

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