It doesn't look like the Highlands at all, but Caithness is the northernmost county of mainland Scotland, where the ancient landscape is gentle and rolling. Within its 1,820 sq. km (700 sq. miles), you find traces of the Stone Age -- the enigmatic Grey Cairns of Camster date from 4000 B.C. The county is filled with cairns, mysterious stone rows and circles, and standing stones. The Vikings once occupied this place, with its rock stacks, old harbors, craggy cliffs, and quiet coves, and many place names are in Old Norse. It has churches from the Middle Ages, as well as towering castles on cliff tops. The Queen Mother's home, the Castle of Mey, dating from 1570, is between John o' Groats and Thurso.

Rich in bird and animal life, Caithness is unspoiled country. Fishing draws people to the area: Wild brown trout are found in some 100 lochs, along with salmon in the Thurso and Wick rivers. Most people head for Caithness with John o' Groats as their final destination. John o' Groats is popularly called the extreme northern tip of the British mainland. (Actually, Dunnet Head is farther north by a few kilometers.)

Scrabster, a ferry harbor, is the main car-and-passenger service that operates all year to the Orkney Islands. There are day trips in summer.