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Caithness is a traditional county in northeast Scotland. Its county town is Wick, and the only other burgh in the county is Thurso. Other settlements include Reay, Mey, John O'Groats, Halkirk and Latheron. Its county council was abolished in 1975 when it became part of Highland Region. It persisted as a local government district until 1996, when it too was abolished. The name Caithness is retained as a Lieutenancy Area, and also for an area committee of Highland Council.

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 Natural heritage
4 External links


Caithness extends about forty miles north-south and about thirty east-west.

The greater part of Caithness is what geologists term a secondary formation, consisting chiefly of flagstone and more or less calcareous matter. With the exception of the Ord, which is a mass of granite, all the other headlands and rocks around the sea-coast are mostly composed of sandstone. The general aspect of the county, which measures in area about 712 square miles, is flat; and this peculiarity is rendered still more striking by the almost total absence of forest.

Caithness is a land of open, rolling farmland, moorland and scattered settlements. The area is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to large, internationally important colonies of seabirds. The surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth and the North Sea hold a great diversity of marine life. Away from the coast, the landscape is dominated by open moorland and blanket bog, divided up along the straths or river valleys by more fertile farm and croft-land.


With respect to the history of Caithness for the first five or six hundred years of the Christian era, little is known. The aboriginal inhabitants would appear to have been the Picts, a people, from the best antiquarian authority, not of Scandinavian, but of Celtic descent.

From time to time after its annexation to Orkney, numerous bands of Norse settlers landed in the county, and gradually established themselves around the whole sea-coast. On the Latheron (south) side, they extended their settlements as far as Berriedale. Most of the names of places, and not a few of the surnames in the lowland parts of the county, are Norwegian. A dialect of the Norn language was spoken, although almost nothing is known about it.

Natural heritage

The underlying geology, harsh climate and long history of human occupation have shaped this rich and distinctive natural heritage. Today we see a diverse landscape incorporating both common and rare habitats and species, and Caithness provides a stronghold for many once common species that have undergone serious declines elsewhere, such as wading birds, water voles and flocks of over-wintering birds.

Many rare mammals, birds and fish have been sighted or caught in and around Caithness waters. Harbour porpoises, dolphins (including Risso's, bottle-nosed, common, Atlantic white-sided and white-beaked dolphins) and minke and long-finned pilot whales are regularly seen from the shore and boats. Both grey and common seals come close to the shore to feed, rest and raise their pups, and otters can be seen close to river mouths in some of the quieter locations.

The bulk of this article is adapted one in a 1911 encyclopedia.

External links

[1] - Caithness Comunity website