:"This article refers to the town in Scotland. For the city in Canada, see Thurso, Quebec. For the Scottish businessman and Liberal Democrat politician, see John Thurso."infobox UK place
country = Scotland
official_name= Thurso
gaelic_name= Inbhir Theòrsa
population= 8,721 (2001 Census)
os_grid_reference= ND115685
unitary_scotland= Highland
lieutenancy_scotland= Caithness
constituency_westminster= Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
constituency_scottish_parliament= Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
post_town= THURSO
postcode_district = KW14
postcode_area= KW
dial_code= 01847


ThursoOrdnance Survey grid reference for Thurso: gbmappingsmall|ND116683] (from Old Norse, meaning 'Bull's water'] and called "Inbhir Theòrsa" in Scottish Gaelic)The Scottish Gaelic name is a translation which assumes the town is named for the river.] is a town and former burgh on the north coast of the Highland council area of Scotland. Historically, the town is one of two burghs within the county of Caithness.


, although it dropped back to around 9,000 by 1960 after a lot of the initial Dounreay construction crew left the area upon completion of the original site.Thurso is also the name of the viscountcy held by the Sinclair family in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.The present Viscount Thurso is also the local MP.


Thurso has history as a burgh of barony dating from 1633.

In 1975, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the local government burgh was merged into the Caithness district of the two-tier Highland region.

In 1996, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, the district was abolished and the region became a unitary council area.

From 1996 until 2007, the town of Thurso was covered by two or three wards, each electing one councillor by the first past the post system of election. This year, a single Thurso ward was created to elect three councillors by the single transferable vote system. The new ward is one of three within the Highland Council's Caithness ward management area and one of seven within the council's Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross corporate management area.

There is also Thurso Community Council, which was created in 1975 when the burgh was abolished. The community council is not a tier of local government but it is recognised as a level of statutory representation. The community council represents an area which is somewhat smaller than that represented by ward councillors. The ward area also includes parts of other community council areas.


Thurso is the northernmost town on the British mainland, situated at the northern extreme of the A9 road, the main road linking Caithness with the south of the country, and is 20 miles (32 km) west of John o' Groats and 21 miles (34 km) northwest of Wick, the closest town. The nearest city is Inverness, some 110 miles (177 km) to the south. Thurso railway station is the most northerly location served by Britain's rail network, which links the town directly with Wick, the county town of Caithness, and with Inverness,For details of the rail links with Wick and Inverness, see "Far North Line"] which is the administrative centre of the Highland Council area. It has a population of around 9,000 residents (2001 census). Thurso lies as far north (59 degrees of latitude) as the Alaskan state capital of Juneau, The Hudson Bay and the city of Stavanger in Norway.

The town is within the Parish of Thurso, which has the parishes of Olrig and Bower to the east, Halkirk to the south, and Reay to the west. The parish of Thurso has also a north-facing Atlantic coastline stretching from Crosskirk Bay in the west to the Haven in Dunnet Bay in the east.

The River Thurso flows through the town and into Thurso Bay and the Pentland Firth. The river estuary serves as a small harbour. Thurso has a fine harbour and beach and looks out over the Pentland Firth to the Orkney island of Hoy and the famous towering Old Man of Hoy (a stack of rock standing out from the main island).

Offices of the Highland Council are located in the town, as is the main campus of North Highland College, formerly Thurso College. This is one of several partner colleges which constitute the UHI Millennium Institute, and offers several certificate, diploma and degree courses from subjects as diverse as Nuclear Decommissioning, Hairdressing, Gamekeeping & Golf Management. Thurso also has a high school, next door to the UHI, and three Primary Schools.

Thurso also boasts a small museum, a two-screen cinema, ten-pin bowling, a nightclub, several hotels & bars, a small skatepark and an internet cafe.

There is also a sizeable British Telecom call centre & a plant making special lithium-ion batteries for the MOD on the west side of the town, which along with the Dounreay Nuclear power plant provide a high level of the employment in Caithness.

Tesco, The Co-Op & Lidl have supermarkets in Thurso & ASDA plan to open one in 2009. There are car dealerships for Ford, Nissan & Vauxhall, a fitted kitchen & a timber-framed house factory too.

Thurso is also a top area for surfing and has a regular surfing championships leg on the UK Tour.

The main window of Old St Peter's Church, near the harbour, is carved from a single piece of stone and is thought to be the largest of its type in the world.


The port of Scrabster lies about 1½ miles (2 km) to the west of the estuary of the River Thurso. Scrabster has deep water in the shelter of Holborn Head.

The harbour includes a berth for the "MV Hamnavoe", a roll-on/roll-off ferry operated by Northlink linking the Scottish mainland with Stromness on Orkney.

From June 2007 a summer-only weekly ferry service connects Scrabster with the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway. The service is operated by the Faroese company Smyril Line.


From Scrabster Harbour (Ordnance Survey gbmapping|ND102704) the A9 runs generally east/southeast through Thurso and then generally south towards Inverness, Perth, the M9 motorway near Stirling, and Falkirk. In Thurso the A9 has junctions with two other classified roads, the A836 and the B874, and in the Georgemas area, about 5 miles (8 km) south of Thurso, the A9 has a locally important junction with the A882 (gbmappingsmall|ND156601), which leads towards Wick.

From the A9 near Burnside (gbmappingsmall|ND107689), in Thurso, the A836 leads generally west towards Reay, Melvich, Bettyhill and Tongue.

From the A9 in central Thurso (gbmappingsmall|ND116683) the B874 leads generally south towards Halkirk.

From the A9 in the Millbank area of Thurso (gbmappingsmall|ND119681) the A836 leads generally east towards Castletown and John o' Groats.

Thurso is the northern terminus of the Far North Line. From Thurso, trains go to Georgemas Junction and then to Wick then head southward to Inverness


The football (soccer) team, Thurso FC (nicknamed "the Vikings"), plays in the North Caledonian League.

The current champions of the Caithness County League are the Thurso Academicals FC, also known as "Acks" who won the league in the 2005 season for the first time in 36 years.

Thurso Swifts FC are the oldest surviving football club in Thurso.

Another football team in Thurso is the Pathetic Sharks. As their name indicates, they are not exactly Premier League quality and are named after characters in the adult satirical comic Viz.

Surfing, is a pastime with many of the local youths. The power of the waves rolling in from the Pentland Firth has been compared with those of Hawaii. Certainly, for those with a penchant for barrelling reef-breaks, Thurso East leaves little to be desired on a good day. On a big day, 20-second coverups are not unknown. In April, The European Surfing Qualifying was held in the notorious Pentland Firth with world famous surfers coming to battle it out for a place in the championships.

The European Surfing Championships and Scottish Surf Kayaking Championships are sometimes held in Caithness, with Thurso East being the main focus of activity. This indicates the esteem in which Northern Scotland waves are held.

Caithness Motocross Club is based in Thurso & stages races fortnightly during the summer on tracks around the county, it also sends a team to race in Orkney Motocross Club's annual beach enduro in November, on the Island of Burray.

Caithness Car Club & Caithness & Sutherland Vintage Vehicle clubs are also based in Thurso.

Thurso Squash club is in Millbank Road, next door to the fire station.

Thurso Bowling club is next door to the Tesco Supermarket

The Thurso Club is in Janet St, overlooking the river.

Twin Towns

* )

Notable people

Thurso was the birthplace in 1736 of Arthur Sinclair (Arthur St. Clair), a merchant's son, a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, friend of George Washington, President of Congress and Governor of the Northwestern Territory.

The BBC TV Highland reporter Jackie O'Brien, attended Thurso High School for the 5th and 6th years.

Anne MacKevitt, the interior designer and friend of Sir Paul and the late Linda Macartney was born in Thurso and grew up in Shore St, Thurso.

Tony Cochrane the Glasgow-based actor was born & brought up in Thurso, he is mainly a stage actor but has appeared in several episodes of Taggart.

Thurso was also the birthplace in 1854 of Sir William Alexander Smith, founder of the Boys Brigade.

Chief Inspector Donald Swanson of the Metropolitan Police was born in Thurso in 1848.

Nick Johnson, Assistant Warden of Chancellor's Court, Pollock Halls of Residence (University of Edinburgh) was born in Thurso. He likes meercats.


External links

* - Another guide to Thurso and also local area
* - Online guide to the area. Many high-res pictures.
* - Thurso Photos Gallery

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