Drystone dyking training day

Castletown Heritage Society operates the Castlehill Heritage Centre as an educational resource for visitors, local students and school children and the local community. Through a programme of interpretive exhibitions and interactive workshops, we seek to stimulate and sustain interest in and understanding of the history, heritage, vernacular skills, biodiversity and physical environment of Castletown and the parish of Olrig. Our aim is to preserve and maintain the unique heritage of our community within both local Caithness and broader Highland contexts.

To see events and activities from previous years, click here:

Guided village walk


All events took place in Castlehill Heritage Centre unless otherwise stated

First and third Sunday of every month

1.30pm to 3.30pm

Spinning Group

Meet every 1st & 3rd Sunday of each month from 11.45am to 1.45pm. Returning spinners and new spinners most welcome.

Come along and have a try. No wheel needed. Come and be inspinnerised!!

To find out more and register interest, click HERE

All Year

Castlehill Archaeology Club

The Castlehill Archaeology group meets regularly under the guidance of Paul Humphreys. The current project is entitled 'Uncovering the Garth', and investigates the possible medieval settlement on the site of Lower Garth, between Castlehill and Thurdistoft.

Interested in taking part? - click HERE

See CAT website for details.

At the end of the project soil samples will be processed at the Castlehill Archaeology Research Facility within the Castlehill Heritage Centre, where volunteers are welcome to take part in the processing of the excavated materials.

Monday evenings

Classes restart on Monday 9 January 2012

7 - 9pm

Wash and Brush Up

Our very popular painting classes with Helen Moore recommence on Monday 9 January after the Christmas break.

Sessions run from 7-9pm on Monday evenings at a cost of £8 per evening plus materials. Juniors and OAPs £5. Beginners are especially welcome.

To find out more and register interest, click HERE


Friday 4 February

Castlehill Archaeology Club meeting at Castlehill

On Friday 4 February at 7pm, Castlehill Archaeology Club met in the Castlehill Heritage Centre and planned its activities for the coming year. Main topics for the evening were the development of a Project Design for Lower Garth, and the organisation of field walking activities near Lower Garth and in the field behind Castlehill Heritage Centre.

Sunday 27 February

Castlehill Archaeology Club meeting at Castlehill

The second meeting for 2011 of the Castlehill Archaeology Club was held on Sunday 27 February. A good turn-out of archaeology group members enabled division of labour on activities both at Lower Garth and in the field behind Castlehill Heritage Centre.

The first group was briefed on the intricacies of field walking, walking the length of the field following a visual line between sets of two markers, scanning the ground for any fragments of pottery or flint, bagging the finds and marking the location with a flag. The second group worked with a will, using secateurs, sickles, scissors and rakes to reduce the vegetation within the two buildings at Lower Garth and their immediate vicinity.

At the next meeting the group will wash and analyse the finds from the field walking exercise. Also of interest to the study of Garth is the composition of the orchard. It is planned to take samples of the trees once they are in leaf and have their type identified. One possible co-operative project might be to graft cuttings and bring them on in the tree nursery at Dunnet Forest. One particularly large tree stump appeared to be of considerable age. The group will attempt to ascertain its age, either by measuring its girth, or by using dendrochronology ie counting the rings.

Thursday 10 March

Quiz Night Fun at Castlehill

There was much scratching of heads on Thursday evening at the annual Castletown Heritage Society Quiz Night. Quizmaster Neil put ten teams through their paces with ten rounds of topics such as General Knowledge, Food & Drink, Geography and the Natural World, Sport and Food, Glorious Food. At the halfway point it was a close thing at the top between 'The Rants' on 42 and regular competitors the 'Particulars' on 46. After a welcome break for tea , sandwiches and home bakes, during which the raffle was drawn, the close rivalry between the two teams started to show, with 'Hopeless' and 'Eureka' making a late surge. It was the Particulars however who stormed away, dropping only two points over rounds 7, 8 and 9. Their commanding lead meant that their (now traditional) poor performance in the Caithness round failed to change the final order, leaving them in top spot with a final score of 76. 'The Rant' shared second place with 'Hopeless' (both on 65) with 'Eureka' (63) just missing out in fourth slot. The 'Booby' prize went to the 'Oldies', who were slightly disadvantaged by having only three team members. At least that's what Marjory said.

Pictured above is the winning 'Particulars' team, holding their prizes - a unique framed print of a golden sunlit view of the Castlehill Flagstone Works windpump tower, with Dunnet Head in the background (see report dated 25 Feb below to see the image).

Thanks go to all the competitors who came from as far afield as Portskerra, Wick, Thurso, Dunnet to join the local contingent from Castletown. Thanks must also go to Liz B, Muriel, Liz G, Jane and Sharon for providing splendid home made fare for our 'pieces', and everyone who donated a raffle prize.

Sunday 20 Feb to end of March

Sat, Sun & Wed afternoons

Caithness Amateur Radio Society Exhibition

Caithness Amateur Radio Society set up a live working radio station and an exhibition at Castlehill centre to celebrate 50 years of existence of the Club's existance. The display included material on radio's beginnings, the importance of war-time military radio communications in Caithness, the ex US Navy Communications network in Caithness and much more.

The display was manned by club members during normal Castlehill opening hours.

To find out more about Caithness Amateur Radio Society click here

Saturday 9 April

Gansey talk and workshop

A 'gansey' is a distinctive, seamless, woollen pullover, traditionally worn by seamen and fishermen. It was designed to be practical, comfortable to wear for work, and provide some protection from the harsh conditions at sea. Many early fishing communities are thought to have had their “own” distinctive gansey patterns or pattern combinations. Wearers’ initials or the name of the boat were sometimes incorporated into a design, and if a man was lost at sea, this might have helped identify him.

Elizabeth Lovick from Orkney will not only reveal the fascinating social history concerning men's ganseys, but also the lives of herring gutters, their ganseys, and the interconnections of patterns round the coast as far afield as the northern isles.

Following her introductory talk, Elizabeth led a practical workshop helping participants perfect the skill of designing and knitting a gansey. 5 ply gansey yarn was supplied (donated by Frangipani) however participants werel free to bring along your own wool if desired. In the Northern Isles ganseys were often knitted in homespun. Needles used were in the 3-4 mm range or 2.5 for the masochists.

Participants designed their own mitifs using pencil and paper, or a laptop (designing motifs is much easier on a computer).

Available for sale were copies of Henrietta Munro's book on Caithness ganseys, and Liz's CD on Knitting Ganseys and a CHS selection of her patterns

The cost for the talk and workshop was £10, including a soup & sandwich lunch.

Wed April 27 7.30pm

Castletown Heritage Society Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the Castletown Heritage Society was held in the Castlehill Heritage Centre on Wednesday, 27 April at 7.30pm.

The guest speaker was Ian Leith, author of "The man who went to Farr", the story of Patrick Sellar, the factor who stood accused of culpabable homocide for his part in the Strathnaver Clearances.

Mr Leith, whose family belongs to this corner of Caithness, returned to the topic of the Clearances for his talk "Remove or Improve - the Sellar and Traill approaches."

See the report of proceedings on the news page.

Winter Exhibition

Sat, Sun & Wed afternoons

Winter Exhibition - Domesticity

A fascinating exhibition illustrating everyday life at home in Castletown in by-gone times.

Featuring artefacts from the Society's extensive collection of objects, furniture, photographs, newspapers and other domestic ephemera, some of which may be all too familiar….

4th – 25th May

Brough Bay Association exhibition

During May, Castlehill Heritage Centre hosted a special exhibition by the nearby Brough Bay Association. Entitled "Then and Now" the exhibition featured photographs, stories and exhibits depicting the life and times of the village of Brough and Dunnet Head and was staged to celebrate the conservation project at Brough Harbour.

The exhibition ran until the 25 May and was open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, from 2pm to 4pm.

Saturday May 28

1/2 day workshop

Winemaking 1

Learn about the traditional methods of making home-made wine from a variety of berries, fruits and other ingredients - with a little effort the results can be really rewarding!

Tutor Philip Wright explained the nature of wine and demonstrated that there is no need to invest in expensive equipment to make the best out of excess garden fruits and more unusual ingredients like pea pods, and provided useful advice on what works well and what best to avoid! Did you know that there is a even a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding wine?

In September there will be a "wine surgery" where you can discuss your wine making successes and failures. In a year's time once your wine has matured you can attend the CHS home-made wine tasting session.

Sunday 12 June

Bee Keeping in Caithness

Did you know there were over 20,000 species of wild bees, and that archaelogical finds have indicated that harvesting honey from bees took place as early as 2000BC?

Local apiarist Robin Inglis kicked off our introductory session and workshop with an illustrated presentation revealing the fascinating life-cycle of the humble honey bee. Participants were able to get up close and personal with live bees in an observation hive.

Part two of the workshop will focus on the practical side of domestic bee keeping in Caithness. Robin will demonstrate and provide information and advice on the cost of starting to keep bees, the purchase of hives and equipment, the care and handling of bees, and the treatment of parasites and diseases.

The cost for the introductory session and workshop was £15, including a soup & sandwich lunch.

Sunday June 26

1pm - 5pm

Scotlands Garden Scheme

Scotland’s Gardens Scheme (SGS) is a registered charity created in 1931 which raises funds for other worthy charities by facilitating the opening of large and small gardens of horticultural interest throughout Scotland to the public.

Castlehill Heritage Centre formed the local base for the event, where a map plus information and details relating to flagstone village gardens within Castletown that will be open to the public as a special event, was available on payment of the admission fee.

A main feature was the Castlehill Heritage Garden, where light refreshments were served throughout the afternoon.

5,6 & 7 August

Traditional Basket Making

Like many "End to Enders" Tim Johnson made the 600 mile journey to Caithness last week. His destination however was not John o' Groats but Castlehill Heritage Centre, where he delivered three days of instruction on traditional basket making. Tim, from the Isle of Wight, is an internationally renowned craftsman, travelling the world studying and teaching his art.

Some twenty-five students reaped the benefit of Tim's experience at Castlehill, where they learned to make dishes and bowls from buff willow, bags from rush and iris stems, and finally a traditional fishing creel for taking home the catch, made from heather stems or docken stalks, bound by hand-twisted coir twine. This proved a particularly physical task, as springy heather had to be subdued, and fingers ached as the twine was knotted and tightened, pulling the creel into shape.

The creel project was inspired by the donation of a 100- year- old fishing creel to the Centre by Sheila Moir of Scarfskerry. Tim stressed the importance of such projects to keep alive local crafts no longer practised today.

This was Tim Johnson's second successful visit to the Heritage Centre as part of the ongoing programme of traditional skills tuition organised by Castletown Heritage Society. It is hoped that a further visit can be arranged next year.

29 May to August

2 - 4pm Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays

Joint summer exhibition with Wick Heritage Society

In conjunction with the Wick Society, Castlehill Heritage Centre will host a special display of photographs from the Johnston Collection.

The Johnston Collection represents the work of three generations of Caithness photographers who captured images of life in and around the area between 1863 and 1975. During that period they produced around a hundred thousand glass plate negatives. Of these, around fifty thousand survive and are held in trust by the Wick Society.

The photgraphic exhibition will feature images local to Castletown, celebrating our rural heritage.

Also on display will be our own summer exhibition featuring the historic operations and activities of the highly successful Castlehill Flagstone Works and the social impact of the flagstone industry on Castletown and the Parish of Olrig.


10 & 11 September

Two one day workshops

10am to 4pm

It's not rocket science - well actually, it is!!

Yes, you did read that correctly!! On the 11th and 12th September, Castlehill Heritage Centre hosted something really different - two amazing one day workshops where participants learned how to build and fly their own rockets!

Organised by the Caithness branch of the British Science Association, each day kicked off with a presentation by Dave Tranter, experienced amateur rocketeer and member of the Southern England Rocket Flyers. Participants were then tutored as they build their own rocket.

See the report and images on the news page.

Friday 23 September

Edwardian Concert

Following the discovery of an original handbill advertising a Castletown village concert at the turn of the previous century, Castletown Heritage Society hopes to recreate the atmosphere of an Edwardian concert featuring local acts and performers.

Through our association with North Highland Connections we are delighted to have secured the services of Professor Chris Underwood, Head of Vocal Studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Professor Underwood will deliver a week of training and coaching to assist performers in preparation for what will undoubtedly be an interesting and entertaining evening.

24 September

1/2 day workshop

Winemaking 2

Second in our series of hands-on workshops learning about the traditional methods of making home-made wine from a variety of berries, fruits and other ingredients. Focus on material available late in the season.

Includes a "wine surgery" where you can discuss your wine making successes and failures.

Sunday 16 October

Wind and water power - 19th Century Style

Guided walk around Castletown exploring the many and various ways that water was harnessed to power plant and equipment within the village.

Part of the Highland Archaeology Fortnight, a programme run sponsored by Highland Council to raise awareness of local archaeology, history and heritage and encourage people to discover the historic environment of Caithness.

Sunday 30 October

Bobbin Lace - a talk and demonstration afternoon

A talk exploring the traditional craft of Bobbin lace making, tracing its early origins in 16th century Italy to demonstrations of modern day techniques. Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.

Demonstration of bobbin lace by Jean Stitt and Cynthia Hardyman. Examples of crochet lace and knitted lace will also be on display. Come along and try it out.

To find out more and register interest, click HERE

Saturday November 12

Pre-Christmas Craft at Castlehill

Struggling to come up with that original Christmas gift for a friend or loved one? Then why not come along to our pre Christmas sale to peruse our unique selection of original Christmas gifts with a local focus.


  • Slate and stone goods from Caithness Stone Industries
  • Wood items lovingly crafted by the North Highland Woodturners Association
  • Hand knit hats, scarves, bags, socks and Christmas ornaments
  • Silk scarves, driftwood art, hand felted items from Castlehill Crafts
  • Books and calendars from Castlehill Heritage Centre

Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and home baking as you browse and purchase.

See News page for report on event

Friday 18 November

Traditional Music Workshop - Bothy Night

A traditional skills workshops exploring the social history of the bothy, and in particular the traditional songs and stories of the workers and farm servants who used to inhabit them. Featuring local artists and performers.

Bothies were outbuildings on a farm or estate, where unmarried labourers and workers used to sleep, often in harsh conditions. In the evening, to entertain themselves they told stories, sang old songs and often composed their own songs, occasionally lampooning their masters, working conditions or day to day events. The stories and songs were sometimes topically political, and given the single sex environment, frequently quite rude!

Our first Bothy Night workshop held last November proved extremely popular, so early booking is advised!!

See News page for report on event

Wed 2, 9, 16, 23 November

Spinning lessons for beginners.

Ann Johnston, Dunnet will be holding four beginners sessions at Castlehill Heritage Centre on November 2, 9,16 and 23rd from 7-9pm.

Cost £5 per session for tuition, tea/coffee plus one payment of £5 to cover materials. A limited number of spinning wheels available.

To find out more and register interest, click HERE

Every Wed, Sat & Sun afternoon

2pm - 4pm

Winter exhibition - Castletown in Uniform

Our latest themed exhibition, exploring the fascinating social history of Castletown in uniform - from the postie, to the district nurse to the RAF personnel stationed at RAF Castletown, and more!!

Now Open - All Welcome!

[Closed New Year's Day]

December 26

Mulled Wine & Mince Pies

Join us at Castlehill Heritage Centre for mulled wine, mince-meat pies and a good going chinwag on our festive Boxing Day opening.

Watch this space for confirmed dates and further details, alternatively:

CONTACT US by email or phone 01847 821120

To book a place on an event, email or phone as above