Caithness is a roughly triangular area on the east side of the far north of Scotland. It includes the settlements of Thurso and John o' Groats on the north coast and Wick, Lybster and Dunbeath on the east coast. For accommodation in Caithness and a full list of features, see our Caithness & Sutherland area pages.
Caithness is one of the most deeply rooted area names in Scotland, and at different times it has been a kingdom, an earldom, a county and a district. Today it forms a part of "Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross", one of the three operational areas into which the Highland Council Area is divided.
The origins of the name of Caithness date back to the era of the Picts, who occupied much of Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde for four centuries after the departure of the Romans. One of the seven Pictish kingdoms was the Kingdom of Cait. This probably had its focus in modern Caithness, and may have extended south into Sutherland and north into Orkney and Shetland. In later centuries, Caithness was an earldom on the front line as the Norse and the Scots struggled for control of the north and the west of the country.
Later still, Caithness became one of the 34 traditional counties of Scotland. The reorganisation that reduced the number of counties from 34 to 33 in 1890 left Caithness unchanged, with the result that Caithness remained a county in its own right until reorganisation in 1975 swept all the counties away in favour of 12 regions.
The regions formed in 1975 were the upper tier of a two tier local authority system. Most were divided into a number of district council areas, and Caithness became one of eight district councils that delivered a range of local level services within the wider area of the newly formed Highland Region. It was bordered to its south by Sutherland, as it had been during its time as a county.
When regions and districts disappeared from the scene in the 1996 reorganisation, Caithness became part of the unitary council area of Highland. Initially Highland Council divided its coverage into eight management areas that were based on the eight districts, and Caithness formed one of them. Since 2007, Highland Council has divided up its area rather differently into three operational areas. For the council's purposes, Caithness now forms a part of the "Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross" operational area.