Castletown Heritage Society (CHS)

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Wed, 2010-01-20

This village – Castletown – has been described as the flagstone village, such was its significance in the industry, though there are, of course, many other stories woven into the fabric of the village and the parish of Olrig from prehistoric times, through two world wars and up to the present day.

Castletown, located on the most northerly coast of mainland Scotland, has long been associated with the quarrying and exporting of flagstone paving.

“Previous generations of the North Highlands have entrusted us with a rich built legacy and even up to the 1950s local authority housing was above the national average in its incorporation of local materials and some considered details. The same, alas, cannot often be said of more recent developments. The North Highlands has some wonderful heritage buildings and this initiative establishes a vital focus on preserving them for future generation and finding new uses that give them a genuinely sustainable future.

Castletown Heritage Society reflecting the Flagstone Village (Castletown) with the quarrying and export of high quality flagstone as paving and construction material by the 18th century improver and founder of the Castlehill flagstone industry, James Traill. Castletown Heritage Society seeks to bring this story to life, and in doing so preserve the unique character, history and traditions of the village of Castletown and the Parish of Olrig. Society runs training and workshops featuring local vernacular skills such as rope-making, wood-chip carving, rug-making, wood-turning, spinning and weaving, drystone dyking, croft crafts, limestone pointing and seashore-based crafts such as driftwood sculpture.

Recently committee members, supporters and volunteers connected with Castletown Heritage Society in Caithness have been honoured with a prestigious award which recognises the society’s contribution to community tourism.

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Commission’s award scheme, which is one of the most coveted accolades in the industry, recognises businesses at the top of their game and is designed to reflect the high quality and diversity synonymous with north Highland tourism.

Castletown Heritage Society received the Community Tourism Initiative Award, which celebrates community collaboration and recognises initiatives and projects where community groups and businesses have worked together to improve the way their area cares for visitors.

Castlehill Heritage Centre

Castlehill Heritage Centre is operated by Castletown Heritage Society (CHS) as a visitor experience and as an educational resource for visitors, local students and school children and the local community. Themed exhibitions are held throughout the year featuring the history, heritage, biodiversity and social history of Castletown and the parish of Olrig.

The Society also runs workshop and training days featuring local and vernacular skills such as rope making, wood chip carving, drystone dyking, croft crafts, limestone pointing and sea shore based crafts such as drift wood sculpture. A variety of themed exhibitions are presented throughout the year.

CHS ‘Viking and Norse Heritage Project’ (VANH)

The Castletown Heritage Society’s ‘Viking and Norse Heritage’ project will focus on attempting to define and assess the Viking and Norse presence in and around Dunnet Bay, which stretches between Castletown and Dunnet. The project forms part of the River of Stone project into archaeology in Caithness undertaken in association with the Caithness Archaeological Trust.

Central to the Viking and Norse Heritage project and the wider River of Stone project is the involvement and training of the local community. AOC Archaeology Group will support the Castletown Heritage Society during the project and deliver training in all aspects of archaeological fieldwork and post-excavation. As well as undertaking a six-week field project, the programme will involve public lectures; training days on artefacts, survey, excavation, post-excavation and publications; web diaries and open days. During the summer and autumn of 2008, Castletown Heritage Society (CHS) delivered a major community project to investigate possible Viking and Norse heritage around Dunnet Bay on the north coast of Caithness.

Archaeological research facility at Castletown

A new community-owned archaeological research facility at Castletown in Caithness, Scotland, has been opened. Castlehill Archaeology Research Laboratory has been developed by the Castletown Heritage Society (CHS) with the financial support of the European Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) (Caithness and Sutherland).

Materials from excavations will be processed at the new facility, which forms part of the River of Stone programme – a project formed by the combined efforts of AOC Archaeology Group and Caithness Archaeological Trust in order to encourage regional economic benefit from the archaeology of Caithness.

The facility, located in the former Castlefield farm steading, was opened by Miss Anne Dunnett, Lord Lieutenant of the County on Thursday April 24 2008.

In order to maintain the facility’s community appeal, local people will be able to receive training in archaeological work, as well as in the processing of materials, whether they be excavations from within the River of Stone programme, or independent from it.

Two full-time jobs and one part-time have been created by AOC Archaeology Group at the new facility, designed to enable local graduates to work on materials excavated from sites all over the UK.

Photo: Dunnet Forest

Dunnet Forestry Trust

Dunnet Forestry Trust, a charitable (SC 033096) company limited by guarantee (No. 231402) with community membership of c. 450, manages Dunnet Forest, the most northerly community woodland on the British mainland. Vision is that: “25 years from now Dunnet Forest will be a forest managed by the community with rich and varied wildlife and a place in which to learn about, respect and enjoy the natural environment.” Full membership of the Trust is open to all persons normally resident in north Caithness (non-residents can become associate members): life membership costs £5.00. Dunnet Forestry Trust is at Castlehill Heritage Centre. For more details read:

CHS Hour

Open all year except Christmas Day & New Year Day, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, 2-4pm

How to get Dunnet Head


Castletown Heritage Society, Castlehill Heritage Centre
Tel: 01847 821204 (Castletown Heritage Society)
Tel: 01847 598205 (Dunnet Forestry Trust)
Email: cast… (Castletown Heritage Society)
Email: i… (Dunnet Forestry Trust)
Castlehill Heritage Centre Website:
Dunnet Forestry Trust Website:

Fig: Castletown Heritage Society,
Castlehill Heritage Centre

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