Explore Caithness, yup-even when the weather isn't so good!

Now, we love the sunshine as much as you guys, we promise we do but as an indoor visitor attraction, we are naturally busiest when the weather isn't so favourable.  So on Thursday of this week, when storm Hector hit Thurso and it's surrounding areas-visitors flocked to visit our Museum to shelter from the wind and rain.  We welcomed record breaking visitors cross our Museum threshold giving us the busiest day of the year so far!  WOOHOO!

Naturally, we were disappointed to learn that the nasty weather meant the scheduled cruise ship-Pacific Princess had to bypass Scrabster Harbour on Friday morning, we know how hard Scrabster Harbour Trust, the shops, other attractions and Venture North work to accommodate the cruise passengers so it's always a shame when folk are unable to visit due to circumstances outwith their control.  Additionally, it's disappointing for visitors to get so close to visiting Orkney to have to change their plans and often accommodation arrangements at incredibly short notice.  We completely understand this and are only too happy to help with making alternative arrangements and of course, helping people get more out of their sometimes unexpected or extended stay in Caithness. 

We're pleased to report that most, if not all of the visitors who came to see us yesterday left after having a fabulous experience of Caithness.  Many visited our displays, sheltered from the rain in our cafe making use of the wifi, visited similar attractions in the area and some opted for tours of the county to make the most of their unplanned for day.  We say it all the time but Caithness really is a gem just waiting to be explored and telling people about how awesome it is here really is one of the best part of our jobs.  

   

 

Romantic Proposals on the North Coast 500!

We're so pleased to be listed within the Rox Jewellery magazine feature as one of the hot spots along the North Coast 500 to propose to your loved one!  

We've hosted many weddings over the years but have never witnessed a proposal, we would love to though!  What better way to create your own historic moment than being surrounded by Caithness history?! 

A popular artifact with brides, grooms and families when they visit is the marriage stone - a lintel, removed from a property in Thurso’s High Street. The inscription is rumoured to record a 1728 marriage between ‘AM’ and ‘EM’, with the additional initials ‘IM’ thought to represent the happy couple’s only child. A visit to see the stone is sure to set you up for a lifetime of happiness.

If you'd like to find out more, why not let us help you plan something special?  Just get in touch and together we can arrange the perfect proposal!  Here's just one suggestion-our AV room would make the perfect, private setting to relax.  Show images or watch videos using our projector with a glass of fizz and a home baked millionaire shortbread in hand before you ask that all important question.  Our team would be thrilled to assist and to be part of your experience.  

You can see the magazine write us by clicking the link here: https://www.rox.co.uk/magazine/rox-loves/romantic-places-north-coast-500  The North Coast 500 really would make the perfect proposal destination. 

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We're a 5 star Museum, YEY!

We've been celebrating this month after receiving confirmation from VisitScotland that we've retained our 5 star VisitScoland Quality Assurance Award for the 9th year running. 

In recent years, the way the award has been graded has changed and now includes further categories in which the Museum must perform to an exceptional level to be in the 5 star category.  We’re especially thrilled to have retained the award considering the change to the points system and are now looking forward to a busy season ahead.

It’s brilliant to receive the award 9 years running, we're really pleased and proud of our wee team for their tremendous contribution. We find the written report really helpful too because although we're officially a 5 star rated Museum, we're fully aware that there is no such thing as perfection and there is always room for improvement.  The advice and recommendations given in the detailed report written by the VisitScotland Quality Assurance 'secret shopper' will allow us to continue to develop and better serve our customers.

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Our Festival of Museums celebrations

Last Saturday on the 19th May, we loved welcoming lots of you to celebrate Festival of Museums with us.  We were thrilled to learn that the celebration was the second busiest day of the month for us-only beaten by a cruise ship day when 600 visitors docked in Scrabster harbour so a difficult one to beat!

We were joined by a team of volunteers who were utterly fabulous at making sure everything ran smoothly.  The museum entry charge was waved for the day which meant visitors could enjoy our displays completely free of charge.  We created Pictish Inspired painted pebbles which visitors were then encouraged to hide around town for others to find and enjoy and relocate in a town wide treasure hunt idea.  The craze of Thurso Rocks started on facebook recently and has proven to be a wonderfully colourful, happy project that's really boosted community spirit. 

Debbie Prentice joined us in Viking dress to demonstrate the ancient craft of tablet weaving, it's really fascinating to watch-she's got the patience of a saint, far too fiddly for us!  

Joan set up our large scale version of hnefatafl which is a Viking game not too dissimilar to chess in the main exhibition hall and encouraged visitors to have a go.  Those who enjoyed the game, could then buy a tabletop version in our gift shop!

The cafe team were busy too and prepared some delicious Viking inspired home bakes for their customers as well as sponges with fresh strawberries and cream to celebrate the Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan. 

Festival of Museums!

We're joining in with the national celebration-Festival of Museums!

Festival of Museums is Scotland’s three day Museum festival which consists of over 150 events taking place up and down the country.  The festival is created and coordinated by Museums Galleries Scotland.  It’s safe to say that the Caithness Horizons celebration will be one of the most northerly on Scotland’s mainland. 

On Friday 18th May, volunteers from Mary Ann’s Cottage will be pride of place within the Museum bringing a little bit of the fascinating Dunnet cottage into Thurso.  The volunteers will engage with visitors and tell the story of Mary Ann.  The cottage has opened to the public a month earlier than previous years to accommodate rising demand for their extraordinary display.

On Saturday 19th May, we will throw open the doors of the attraction and welcome visitors and local people of Caithness to enjoy their displays and activities.  Museum entry for one day only will be free of charge and there will be lots of activities on offer. 

Festival of Museums is a brilliant way to really celebrate Museums and inject some fun into our past.  We’re really excited to share some craft activities, games and conversation with people of all ages.

The Museum team of staff and volunteers will offer guided tours and craft activities inspired by the Museum displays.  Pictish Stone rubbings as well as Pictish inspired pebble painting will take place downstairs as well as a display of tablet weaving by volunteer Debbie Prentice who is looking forward to showing this ancient method of creativity.  Team members will help visitors take part in a large scale ancient Viking board game, Hnefatafl a game of strategy not dissimilar to chess.  For those who get the bug for the game, tabletop versions are available in the gift shop.

With the current craze of pebble painting at such height, we’re looking forward to creating some fabulous designs, using the Pictish symbols as our inspiration; I can’t wait to see what designs we come up with.  Once the pebbles are dry, their creators will be encouraged to hide them within the community for others to find and relocate joining in the current town wide pebble treasure hunt.

In the Main exhibition hall, families will enjoy the exhibition displays as well as the fabulous wildlife dress up costumes, jigsaws interactive game and films. 

The Museum cafe will be baking up their usual assortment of treats and savoury delights and are currently running a promotion where customers can enjoy a free piece of their homemade, dairy free shortbread with any purchase of a hot drink.  The promotion is celebrating the launch of the cafe’s new menu. 

Also celebrating Festival of Museums this weekend is our friends at Lyth Arts Centre who are hosting an event with Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archive and a FREE art workshop with Hannah Cambridge of Crafty Little Studio.  Not to mention the fabulous storytelling and crafts event with children's author Alan Temperley at Strathnaver Museum too!

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One of our awesome volunteers has written (another!) book

Ian Casstles volunteers with us on a Friday morning and has a significant interest in the Norse history of Caithness.  So much so, that he's written two popular books on the subject!  While Ian is with us on a Friday, he chats with visitors and locals alike encouraging them to learn more about the history of Caithness and it’s people.  ‘The Katanes Saga’ is the second book from Ian who lives in Thurso and is a comprehensive follow up to his first publication ‘The Raven Banner.’  The books feature the chronicles of The Norse History of Caithness. 

Copies can be found in our gift shop, Bews newsagent and Newsbeat in Thurso.  The book costs £10.  If you're not in Thurso but fancy one, why not contact us and we can arrange the best way to get one posted to you.   

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Homemade Shortbread on us with any hot drink purchase in our cafe throughout May!

To celebrate the launch of our new cafe menu and our extended coffee menu, we'd like to offer our lovely visitors a free piece of our delicious, homemade, gluten and dairy free shortbread with every hot drinks purchased in May!

The catering team have recently revamped the menu in our cafe area and now offer more vegetarian, gluten and dairy free options.  Many of our home bakes are completely dairy and gluten free.  They've also received training to allow us to extend our coffee menu.  We welcomed a representative from Caffia to our cafe who showed the team how to make the best coffee the machine can make!  We can also now offer ground decaff coffee and are sampling a new hot chocolate.  

This offer is available to customers who hold  a wee token-tokens are available from reception, many of our local shops in town and even when some of our team are out and about chatting with the awesome folk of Thurso and it's visitors.   

Tokens are immediately redeemable in the Gallery cafe until 31st May 2018.  

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Printmaking in the North Exhibition preview

Last night, we welcomed 50 people to the private view of our latest exhibition-Print Making in the North.  The exhibition showcases over 20 artists work from across the North of Scotland.  Work has been submitted from artists with a strong connection to the North of Scotland.  The furthest afield being the Isle of Lewis and Orkney with many being first time contributors to our exhibitions.  The exhibition is on display now until Tuesday 3rd April 2018.  

The exhibition displays work created from many different techniques of printmaking and creates a vastly interesting range of display pieces.  

As well as the work within the gallery being for sale, many of the artists have stocked our gift shop with prints and cards of their work.  

To celebrate the exhibition, local painter and print maker Meg Telfer will teach enthusiastic members of the public about printmaking during two workshops on Saturday 17th March.  If you'd like to book to join us at either the adults or the kids workshop, please get in touch.  Places are limited so no time to spare!

Scottish Society for Northern Studies Conference-April 2018

We're really looking forward to being involved in the Scottish Society for Northern Studies residential conference right here in Thurso from 11th-14th April based at the Pentland Hotel! Here's a brief look at the programme. For more information and to sus out how you can attend, check out the website: https://www.ssns.org.uk/

Beginning with full bellies thanks to the (the best way to do something) on Wednesday 11th April, guests will enjoy a welcome buffet before the sessions begin the next morning.

*Thursday 12th April*

  • 09:30 - Session 1

Andrew Conlon, Glasgow, ‘A.O. Curle: A Wandering Antiquary in Caithness’

Maya Hoole, Historic Environment Scotland, ‘(Re)Discovering Ava: Research Results from a Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age Beaker Burial, from Achavanich, Caithness’

John Borland, Historic Environment Scotland, ‘Pictish and Early Medieval Sculpture of Caithness and Sutherland’

Oisin Plumb, University of the Highlands and Islands, ‘”Beyond the Range of Human Exploration”: 
Cormac and the “North” in the Seventh Century’

  • 14:00 - Session 2

Andrea Blendl, Institute for Northern Studies at UHI, ‘Rune-Carving in Caithness: Then and Now’

Joanne Howdle, Caithness Horizons,Thurso: New Developments at the Museum’

16:30-18:30 - Reception at Thurso Museum / Caithness Horizons Museum and Art Gallery with guided tour by Joanne Howdle, Curator of Collections-YEY, that's us! :D

*Friday 13th April*

  • 09:30 - Session 3

Linda Ross, University of the Highlands and Islands, ‘Dounreay, People and Place in Caithness: 1954-65’

Catherine Byrne, Wick, ‘Stroma, Island Life in the 20th Century’

Muriel Murray, Castlehill Heritage Centre, ‘The Rise and Fall of the 19th Century Flagstone Industry in Caithness’

  • 14:00 - Session 4 - Open to the Public

Andrew Jennings, University of the Highlands and Islands, ‘The Other Northern Barbarians: A Trope through Time’

Kenny Brophy, University of Glasgow, ‘“Many stanes”: Revisiting the multiple stone rows of northern Scotland”

Colleen Batey, University of Glasgow, ‘Norse Caithness: An Update’

*Saturday 14th April*

  • 09:30-16:30 - Coach Tour

To include Castletown Heritage Centre, Freswick Links and Keiss area broch.

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Our first Community Consultation sessions-January 18'

We invited you, the lovely folk of Caithness to our two community consultation events recently and we're so grateful that over 70 folk came along over two nights.  

The community consultations will become a regular activity at the Museum with the next dates already penciled in for late June.  The event included a guided tour of the Museum with guests being led by Commercial Manager Tracy Dodson and Museum Curator, Joanne Howdle. The proposed changes to the Museum displays were explained in great detail.  We wanted to express our excitement about the vision for the Museum displays and what better way to do that than to bring people in and tell them all about it?!  Joanne has been working hard since the New Year to make immediate additions to the amount of artefacts on display within the building.  On visiting, you’ll see that there are considerably more paintings on display in the foyer and artefacts are in the cafe area too. 
Once the tour of the Museum and Gallery was complete, Joan, (admin, retail and funding) and Marion (admin and Marketing) explained their role within the team.  Joan gave information on the Museum’s conference and events facility, the Education Room and how it can be used by community groups, families and local businesses as Caithness Horizons have a wide range of facilities and equipment available for internal and external hire.  Marion told the group of her marketing role and how she’s been developing the Friends of Caithness Horizons volunteers programme.  Training and encouraging the volunteer group has been amazing and is already proving to be a huge help to the team.

By this point, the groups had earned themselves a cuppa and Catering Manager Lynda Moran was only too happy to oblige with tea, coffee and delicious homemade shortbread.  The groups were then encouraged to chat to the Museum team about their thoughts on the presentation and how organisations and businesses could make better use of the Museum’s facilities.  The Museum is very keen to work alongside businesses and local organisations to offer a wide range of projects and events for the community to enjoy.  It was fabulous to have a natter with the community groups and local businesses, ideas were flying and we’re really looking forward to working on the feedback received.
 

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