Former “Caithness Horizons” facility set to relaunch as the North Coast Visitor Centre from November 2021

The re-launch of the former Caithness Horizons centre in Thurso is set to take place on Tuesday, 2 November 2021, with the facility being rebranded as the North Coast Visitor Centre.

Its relaunch will bring back into use a valuable community asset and support the wider community and economic benefit for Thurso and the wider Caithness Area.  Caithness Horizons in Thurso closed its doors in February 2019, when the then operator “Caithness Horizons” ceased operations due to financial and sustainability issues.

The building is owned by the Highland Council, and the Council retains responsibility for the collections housed therein.

Recognising the valuable role the building plays within the town of Thurso, and the wider Caithness area (along with the opportunities offered in relation to museum and community use) the Council’s Care, Learning and Housing Committee in May 2019 agreed to commit to the re-opening of the facility, with a capital investment from Highland Council of circa £200,000 to address key building works, and a joint partnership approach between Highland Council and Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) to each provide revenue funding of £75,000 per annum for an initial 3 year period to support a new operator, High Life Highland.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the majority of building works had been undertaken and plans were being developed for an expected opening in spring/summer 2020.  Due to the pandemic and lockdown, subsequent building works and planning towards re-opening had to be put on hold.  The lockdown and extended period of the building being unused also led to some additional works requiring to be addressed in the latter part of 2020.

The majority of works are now confirmed as complete in relation to the fabric of the building and other building related activity which were required to support safe reopening of the facility – this includes replacement of the heating system including new boilers, repairs to the ventilation system and the mobility lift.  Extensive repairs on the roof, making good the damage caused by the lead theft, have also been undertaken.

The recent focus has been on the final improvements and commissioning steps that will allow High Life Highland, as the new operator, to maximise the opportunity offered by the facility.

From its official re-opening on Tuesday, 2 November 2021, the North Coast Visitor Centre will then be open each week from November until March:

  • Tuesday – Thursday:  12 noon – 16.00
  • Friday and Saturday:  11.00 – 16.00

Opening hours between April and October:

  • Tuesday – Saturday:  10.00 – 17.00

Vice-Chair of the Caithness Area Committee, Provost Struan Mackie, said:  “I am delighted that we now have a date for this vital community facility reopening. High Life Highland will be providing a fresh interpretation of the former Caithness Horizons facility, which will re-establish an important focal point for the local community and in turn our regions tourism offering. After much work behind the scenes, I am thankful to Dounreay, Highlife Highland and the Highland Council for ensuring the former town hall was brough back into public use and look forward to an exciting programme within first-class surroundings.”

Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of the Education Committee, said:  “The launch of the newly rebranded North Coast Visitor Centre will I am sure be welcome news for everyone in Thurso and the wider Caithness area. Community facilities like this are needed across the Highlands and I am confident this facility has a bright future which will serve both tourists and locals alike for years to come.”

Josh George, Organisational Excellence Director, Dounreay Site Restoration Limited, said:  “DSRL is delighted that this important community facility is re-opening.  In the past it has been a well-used resource by both locals and visitors alike and can now, once again, be a focal point for the heritage and history of Dounreay and the wider community.  Caithness now has another great venue for people to meet up and enjoy themselves.”


Images:  Dounreay Control Room exhibition on display in the North Coast Visitor Centre

Dounreay Control Room exhibition in the North Coast Visitor CentreDounreay Control Room exhibition in the North Coast Visitor Centre

13 Oct 2021