Stage 13: Wick to Keiss

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle

Distance | 12.5 miles / 20.0 km     Status |  Green 

This stage starts in the centre of Wick and goes along roads for 3 km before setting out along the cliff tops again. You’ll soon come to Noss Head lighthouse, then Sinclair Girnigoe Castle, and then the lovely hotel called Ackergill Tower. After that you’ll walk along a ridge of sand dunes, cross a large river, and then walk more dunes before arriving at Keiss.

All fences and walls have gates or stiles. The dunes by Wick Golf Club at Reiss are marked but steep and sandy, and it may be easier to walk on the beach except at high tide. (Please do not walk along the golf course.) The River of Wester north of the golf course is usually fordable, but not always. It can be as much as 3 ft deep or more at high tide, but is usually much less. In winter it has been reported to be much deeper on occasion due to erosion of the beach. Under these conditions it may be waist or chest deep or more and should not be crossed; walk to the A9 bridge instead (See River of Wester Alternate below.)

Risk of drowning in River of Wester or being swept out to sea at exceptional high tide and/or river in spate. There is a risk of death from falling off cliffs along some of this stage. Please also note that like much of rural Scotland, ticks may be an issue in areas of long vegetation.

River of Wester Alternate (see orange route on map at the bottom of this page)
This river is on stage 13 and can be fast flowing and over waist deep depending on tides and recent rains. This alternate is also covered in the Cicerone guidebook, and adds 1.5 miles/2 km of walking, and requires about 1 mile/1.6 km of road walking (with a verge).

Northbound: After passing the length of the golf course and the parallel dunes, the river is just at the end of the dunes. If the river is impassable, take a left around or over the end of the dunes and continue on a line towards the farm in the distance (Quoys of Reiss farm on maps). After a minute you will come to a footbridge, then continue following “alternate” markers towards the farm, crossing two fairways, then another bridge, and then a stile over a fence to leave the golf course. Continue on a straight line up through a field and then along a track up to the A9. Turn right and walk approximately 1 mile along the A9, finally crossing the river on a bridge. Continue another 200 metres to the entrance of the Subsea 7 site, turn right and walk along the tarmac road towards the site. Before reaching the gatehouse, turn left through a gate into a field and use the map and GPX file below and any markers in the field to find your way back to the main trail. There is a gap in the dunes that allows access to the beach. Continue north either on the beach or in the dunes.

Southbound: South of Keiss you can walk the dunes or stay on the beach. Eventually you’ll need to descend to the beach to cross the River of Wester, but you may find the river uncrossable. If so, backtrack along the beach approximately 2/3 mile/1 km to a gap in the dunes, and follow markers or the GPX file through the dunes to a field and then to a tarmac access road. Turn right on the access road up to the A9, and go left on the A9 for about 1 mile/1.5 km. Before you reach the farm on the left, go left over a gate, following “alternate” markers down a track, continuing across a field and over a fence to the golf course. Continue crossing a bridge, two fairways, and another bridge to get back to the coast, and resume walking south either on the ridge of the dunes or on the beach.

Download alternate route gpx here.

Stage End Information
Keiss is on the A99 north of Wick. Numerous bus routes stop there, connecting to John O’Groats, Wick, and Inverness. From Keiss, walk down the high street to where it curves left to follow the cliff top. Keiss has the Sinclair Bay Hotel (seasonal) and several nearby B&Bs.

More information:


The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage
Tel: 07733 443037
Flotnar Hus
Tel: 07485 056081
Main Route

Wester Alternate