South of John o' Groats the main A99 to Wick and all points south crosses the moorland cloaking Warth Hill before descending to parallel the eastern shore of Freswick Bay. The settlement pattern here is typical of much of coastal Caithness, comprising a broad scatter of farmsteads and cottages along a minor road to the north of the bay and along the line of the main road.
The settlement on the north side of the bay, if "settlement" is not too grand a word, is called Skirza, while the one where the minor road meets the main road is called Tofts. This blends at its southern end seamlessly into Freswick. All three are very easy to overlook by travellers along the main road variously en route to Wick or Land's End. Less easy to overlook, even in passing, is the imposing bulk of Freswick House which stands above the south west shore of the bay, at the southern end of a broad sandy beach.
Sometimes it is worth following roads to their end just to see what's there. The minor road through Skirza appears on the map to reach the coast at the intriguingly named Skippie Geo, but turns into what seems to be a private track in a farm. An even more minor road leading off it to the south turns out to be more interesting, however. This it leads to an attractive small pier which, as it also has a breakwater on the side of the open sea, could almost qualify to be called a harbour.
As you head from here back towards the main road, watch out for a track leading off to the left from the final corner on the road. This curves down and around to a small parking area at the southern end of the beach. The nearby tank traps, designed to deter invasion in World War II, are an interesting counterpoint to the banks of wild dame's rocket flowers. Not far away is a rusting boat winch which which suggests that fishing boats were once based at this end of the bay.
Freswick House draws your attention from anywhere around the bay, but it is perhaps seen to its best with the beach and bay in the foreground from the end of the access track. It represents the latest in a series of high status structures in the immediate area of Freswick Bay. These date back to the Iron Age, with a number of brochs, the remains of three of which can still be seen today. Later on, the Norse settled at Freswick. From about 1140 a castle called Lambaborg was built by Sweyn Asleifsson, a Norse pirate, on fearsome cliffs at Bucholie or Bucholly, a mile south of Freswick House. This later became known as Bucholie Castle and seems to have been abandoned in the 1660s.
At about the same time, a tower house dating, probably, from the 1400s and usually known as Freswick Castle, was significantly expanded into what became known as Freswick Tower and, after further expansion in the 1700s, Freswick House. The house remains in use today. It is worth noting a degree of confusion in some sources about naming of the two neighbouring castles, as Bucholie Castle has sometimes been referred to, apparently in error, as Freswick Castle.
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