Caithness Horizons

Ulbster Pictish Stone

Caithness Horizons is an Accredited Museum and VisitScotland 5* Visitor Attraction. It is a multi-purpose venue that contains:

1) Permanent exhibitions which interprets the cultural and natural heritage of Caithness from prehistory to the present day
2) An audio-visual presentation which provides an overview of the natural and cultural heritage of Caithness. The audio-visual presentation is shown in a specially designed audio-visual theatre and Caithness Horizons has the capacity to run additional audio-visual presentations to enhance interpretation of its Collections
3) A Temporary Exhibition Gallery that can be used for heritage exhibitions, art exhibitions, small-scale performances and music events. The Temporary Exhibition Gallery can also be hired by community groups during periods when there are no temporary exhibitions programmed
4) An Education Room that doubles as a meeting space
5) Gift shop
6) Café which also provides extra hanging space for exhibitions of work from the Collections and by local artists
7) Tourist information

Venue Type:

Museum, Gallery

Opening hours

Mon-Sat 10.00-18.00 Sun 11.00-16.00

Admission charges


Additional info

Hearing loop
Wheelchair available for use

The Museum Collections are broad in scope and comprise of the types of material:

Archaeology: This Collection mostly consists of archaeological material from Caithness, although there is a small Collection of material from elsewhere in Scotland and from other countries.

Geology & Palaeontology: This Collection consists of rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils. Significant elements of the Geology and Palaeontology Collection are the examples of the fossil fish of Caithness which belong to the Devonian period about 380 million years ago.

Natural History: This Collection consists of mounted specimens representative of the birds native to Caithness and migrant species, birds’ eggs, shells and the herbariums of Robert Dick, Richard Lindsay and Mrs Horne of Stirkoke. The most significant element of the Natural History Collection is the Herbarium of Robert Dick (1811 – 1866). Robert Dick was a baker and renowned self-taught botanist, geologist and naturalist. He was born in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire. His father, Thomas Dick was an Officer of Excise. In 1826, Thomas Dick was promoted to Supervisor of Excise and moved to Thurso. In the summer of 1830, Robert Dick travelled to Thurso where he set up his own baker’s shop. Robert Dick collected fossils, shells and botanical specimens. His Herbarium contains around 3000 specimens which are mounted on around 2400 sheets of paper.

Decorative & Fine Art: The Decorative Art Collection is small and contains objects made by local craftspeople. Ceramics made by the Fisherbiggins Pottery in Thurso in the 1970s and commemorative items decorated with scenes of Thurso and/or Caithness are contained within the Collection. The Collection also contains the death mask of Robert Dick. The Decorative Art Collection also contains costume and textiles. The Fine Art Collection is made up of prints, drawings, oil and watercolour paintings, many of which have a local connection in terms of subject matter or have been painted by artists that have a connection with Thurso and/or Caithness.

Social & Industrial History: The Social and Industrial History Collections are broad in scope and relate to Thurso in particular and Caithness in general and can broadly be described as covering the following subject areas:

Domestic life
Medals and tokens
Military history
Social life
Technology and the nuclear industry
Thurso Burgh history
Trade and transport
Vernacular furniture

Archival Material: The Collections contain a broad range of archival material which includes the books of Robert Dick including those given to him by his friend the geologist Hugh Miller, along with advertisements, school books and Bibles.

Photographs & Photographic Reproductions: The Collections contain photographs and photographic reproductions such as postcards which feature scenes that depict the places, people and special events associated with Thurso and/or Caithness.

Collection details

Archives, Agriculture, Costume and Textiles, Fine Art, Maritime, Law and Order, Photography, Sport, Science and Technology, Trade and Commerce, Archaeology, Coins and Medals, Decorative and Applied Art, Industry, Natural Sciences, Personalities, Religion, Social History

Viking Runi Cross


This Collection mostly consists of archaeological material from Caithness, although there is a small Collection of material from elsewhere in Scotland and from other countries. Significant elements of the Archaeology Collection are:

A small number of worked stone objects, including stone tools and quern stones from various locations in Caithness
A Bronze Age clay beaker which was found near Achavanich
A late Neolithic/early Bronze Age carved stone ball
A Pictish standing stone which is known as the Skinnet Stone
A Viking cross shaped gravestone which is incised with runic letters that was found near to old St. Peter’s Church, Thurso in 1896
A Viking bronze axe head which was found in a barn wall at Lower Howe near Thurso
Bronze pins, fragments of bone comb and two spindle whorls which were found at the Norse settlement site at Freswick
Iron Age finds from the broch at Killmister which include a broken stone bowl, two stone pot lids, slingshots used for hunting, a spindle whorl, a piece of cooking pot and flint scrapers

Geology & Palaeontology

This Collection consists of rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils. Significant elements of the Geology and Palaeontology Collection are the examples of the fossil fish of Caithness which belong to the Devonian period about 380 million years ago and include:

Dipterus valenciennesi
Thursius pholidotus

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Model (not to scale) of the Dounreay Fast Reactor

The Dounreay Story

  • 6 April 2012 — 6 April 2020 *on now

The United Kingdom’s fast reactor research and development programme at Dounreay is now over and the site is currently Scotland’s largest nuclear clean-up and demolition project.

Since the early days of construction in 1955 right through to the present day, Dounreay has had a dominant impact on the economic and social development of Caithness. The role that Dounreay has played in the history of Scotland has been recognised as being of national importance.

This extension of our Dounreay exhibition has been developed to enable Caithness Horizons to display more of its nationally important Dounreay Collection. As the Collection is diverse the interpretation in this exhibition has been designed so that it celebrates the achievements of Dounreay and provides the visitor with key facts about the site. It is not intended to be a comprehensive history.

Suitable for

  • Any age


  • English & Scottish Gaelic


Caithness Horizons

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Interactive promenade drama performance of the life of Unnr ‘djúpúðga - The Deep Minded’ Ketilsdóttir

  • 14 — 15 May 2016 2-4pm

Caithness was renowned in the Viking world for the presence of powerful women, both legendary and mythological. Immortalised in the Icelandic Laxdaela Saga, Unnr ‘djúpúðga' (The Deep Minded) was one such woman, respected and famed for her wisdom. With twenty men under her command, Unnr secretly built a Viking ship in the woods around Caithness and arranged the strategic marriages of her grand-daughters to the Earls of Caithness and Orkney, before taking the ship on an epic voyage to become one of the first settlers in Iceland.

Written, directed and performed by the Thurso Players with members of Caithness Horizons Peter's Pals: Young Curators Club, this interactive outdoor performance weaves its way through many of the Viking sites of interest around Thurso, bringing the story of this remarkable Caithness woman to life.


Donations welcome


Caithness Horizons
Old Town Hall
High Street
KW14 8AJ




01847 896508

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.