Old St. Peter's Kirk, Thurso (c.1220)
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Old St. Peter's Kirk, Thurso (c.1220)

A town in N Caithness, Thurso lies on the Thurso River where it enters Thurso Bay, an inlet of the Pentland Firth, 8 miles (13 km) east of Dounreay and 20 miles (32 km) west of John o' Groats. Thought to derive its name from the Norse Thor's-a or 'river of the god Thor', Thurso was the site of a castle of the Norse Earls and a place trading with Scandinavia until the 12th century. It is situated on a bay that is sheltered to the west by Holborn Head and to the east by Clairdon Head. Created a Royal Burgh in 1633, Thurso is the most northerly town on the British mainland. In 1719 the lands and burgh of Thurso were acquired by the Sinclairs of Ulbster. Old Thurso, a group of fisherman's houses on the east side of Thurso Bay, developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in a random street pattern. The new town was laid out in a regular grid pattern by Sir John Sinclair in 1798. In the second half of the 20th century Thurso expanded in association with the development of the nuclear facility at Dounreay. Buildings of interest include Old St Peter's Church, the 19th-century Kippering-house in Shore Street, the Meadow Well (1818), Thurso Bridge (1887), Thurso High School (1958), Dunbar Hospital (1882), Davidson's Lane Public Library (formerly the Miller Institution), St Anne's Roman Catholic Church (1960), Tollemache House (1963), the Burgh Chambers (c.1860) and Pennyland House (1770), the home of Sir William Smith, founder of the Boys Brigade. Thurso Castle was built by Sir Tollemache Sinclair in 1872-78 and Harold's Tower (1780-90) was erected by Sir John Sinclair to commemorate the Norse Earl Harold, killed in the battle of Clairdon in 1196. Thurso Heritage Museum houses the Pictish Ulbster Stone and the herbarium of local baker Robert Dick (1811-66).

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