History

Thurso’s history stretches back to at least the age of Viking rule in Caithness. The Norsemen were attracted to Thurso due to its geography, lying at the mouth of a river overlooking a deep sheltered bay.

In the modern era the town was laid out in a strict grid iron layout by Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster in 1798. Today, Thurso is the principal market, service and social centre for West and Central Caithness and a wider hinterland reaching deep into North Sutherland. 

The name Thurso from the Old Norse word, Thjórsá, meaning “Bull’s River”, is that adopted by the viscountcy held by the Sinclair family. The present Viscount Thurso is also the local MP.

An important trading port through the ages, Thurso’s economy was boosted in the 1950s with the advent of the Dounreay nuclear power station nine miles away.

You can visit Thurso Interactive, a project of the Thurso Heritage Society, to view collections of maps, photos, videos and other artefacts of Thurso past and present.

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