The largest expanse of wetlands in Europe, this vast Highland wilderness is home to breathtaking vistas and extensive wildlife...but it would be a mistake to stop your explorations there.
BY KEITH AITKEN
Caithness and Sutherland. Caithness-and-Sutherland. Scotland's northernmost counties can seem inseparable in speech: one of those pairings rarely heard apart, like gin-and-tonic or Abbott-and-Costello. Yet, they could scarcely be more different.
Sutherland has the more romantic reputation, and deservedly so. Along its western and northern reaches lies some of Scotland's most gorgeous scenery: Assynt, Arkle and Ben Stack, Cape Wrath; Loch Eriboll. Caithness can seem bleak, barren and peculiarly lowland by comparison, a place simply to pass through en route to the Northern Isles. But there is, as so often with Scotland, a great deal more to be said.
Those who take time to tarry in this far northeastern land are rewarded with some of Britain's greatest cliffscapes; a rich and evocative archaeological treasury; a unique and quirky folklore, forged where Vikings from the north clashed and melded with Pictish tribes from the south; a dense scattering of impossibly romantic castles in commanding locations; a native fauna and flora of international renown; and a sparse, muscular landscape, cordoned off from the Highlands by the Sutherland hills and not always picture-book pretty, but with a distinctiveness that scores it into the memory.
The full text of this article is available in the 2009 Summer issue of Scottish Life.
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