Old St Peter's Church and Churchyard, Thurso
Explore this old parish churchyard with 12th-century ruins
If you’re planning a trip to Thurso, don’t miss this old church building! Old St Peter’s Church and Churchyard in Thurso is a great stop after walking along Thurso’s harbour. You’ll first notice the striking window, carved from a single slab of stone. It changes the Category A listed building from unassuming to unmissable. You’ll get some great photos and a good walk around Thurso town!
The old church ruins
You can reach Old St Peter’s easily from the High Street in Thurso town centre. It is located by the River Thurso, close to the coast. There is plenty of parking nearby. And although you can not enter the church itself, the old churchyard is usually open to visitors. Here, you can walk around the ruins of the building and explore the old gravestones and memorials. There are no information boards there, so it’s worth reading up a bit on the history before visiting.
On a 14-day NC500 trip staying in 10 different hotels, this one stood out food wise as the best, including over some more expensive accommodation. We had a DBB rate. Usually hotels only provide a table d’hote menu if dinner is included but McKays allowed us full range of the menu. Our dinner was perfect even without a glass of wine to go with our steaks due to covid regs in Scotland. The breakfast was also the best on our trip. Top marks to the kitchen staff. I gather the hotel is family run over a couple of generations and it shows. Friendly, attentive staff at reception and restaurant. Warm and welcoming.
History of the church
The ruins of Old St Peter’s Church were first built around 1125, although the building was altered over the centuries. Later extended in the shape of a cross. The ornate south window probably dates from the 1500s. As well as a place of worship, it also became a courthouse and prison in the 18th century. The church was used for about 700 years. However, it became in a state of disrepair and in January 1833, the congregation moved to the newly-built St Andrew’s and St Peter’s nearby.
Old St Peter's legend
The Irish raid of 1649
In 1649, an Irish raid took place in Thurso, led by cattle thief, Donald Macalister Mullach. One Sunday, the raiders planned to burn the church with the local residents inside. However, Sir James Sinclair and his fellow townsfolk got word of the plan and managed to fight them off. The story goes, that after running out of bullets, one of Sinclair’s servants removed a button from his master’s coat, and fired it from his gun, killing Mullach.
Caithness history and heritage
Explore more local history with Mackays
Mackays Hotel is located in a historic area, with so much to discover during your stay with us. So, find more history and heritage sites in the far north of Scotland, and check out lots of other great things to do near Wick in our See and Do Guide.