Keiss has a very picturesque harbour and there are some lovely building in the harbour area on the edge of the Caithness village of Keiss on the north east coast of Scotland, 12 miles south of John O Groats. Keiss Harbour was very busy during the booms of earlier days but is still a well known landing place locally for several creel boats sitting as it does on Sinclair Bay a very productive crab area. Several buildings are in fine condition and an ice house, fishing store and stone houses testify to the durability of the local stone. This Ice House is listed property of The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
The area to the north of the access point is pebble and rock covered shore, whilst the area to the south is mostly sandy. Sea birds, particularly sea duck, can often be seen off the harbour. High dunes extend along the shore towards Reiss. An uneven path with no hard surface runs parallel with beach.
This area is ideal for those seeking an active holiday, with surfing and golf being local specialities, or for a more relaxing break, with sandy beaches, fishing and many historical and archaeological attractions such as old harbour bothy in easy reach. This is also an ideal base for trips to the Orkney Islands.
History In Brief:
Keiss Harbour was built in 1831 and was used by boats which fished for herring, whelks and crabs. The harbour’s outer basin calms the waves, protecting the boats in the inner basin. Some of the stones in the harbour walls were positioned vertically to counteract the upward pressure of the rising tide. The warehouse was also built around 1831, and would have been used for the storage of fish and fishing equipment such as nets, barrels and salt.
Access is adjacent to the parking area. 1 – 2.5 miles to cover whole site. A track follows the shore north to Keiss village and harbour, 30 mins (approx). Large groups will have to walk down to the harbour from the village due to the lack of parking/turning space for buses at the harbour. The distance is approximately 0.5 km. The harbour can be reached from the Keiss Beach car park in about 30 minutes. Enjoyable shore walk passing traditional harbour & 16th century castle ruins.
How to get there
Turn off A99 At Keiss and take road down through village from the south towards the sea until it winds down to the harbour. The beach is signposted.
Opening times/best time to visit:
Open access to the beach all year. For beach work, visit approximately 2 hours before low tide.
Pebbles and rocks can be slippery. Deep water in the harbour at high tide. Stone surfaces of harbour can be very slippery when wet. Care should be taken in harbour area, particularly at low tide when there is a greater drop into the water.
There is limited parking to the northern end of the sands in Sinclair’s Bay. Parking for 4 cars. Sufficient space for a bus if other cars are not parked. There is roadside parking available in the village. Limited parking at the harbour but take care to avoid inconveniencing harbour and other road users.
Highland Council Ranger Service may be able to accompany you. This needs to be arranged prior to outing. Tel: 01955 607758