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Thurso to host world's most northerly drystone festival


By Gordon Calder


THE world's most northerly drystone walling festival is taking place in Thurso this weekend and is expected to attract people from Caithness and other parts of the country.

It is the fourth year of the event, and organiser and master craftsman George Gunn is hoping there will be a good turnout for the various activities taking place from Friday to Sunday.

The Northstone Stonefest will be staged at the Thurso Bay caravan and camping site and will feature workshops, a local tour and three guest speakers. A drystone feature will be built during the daily workshops.

A feature being built during a previous festival. Organiser George Gunn is on the right.
A feature being built during a previous festival. Organiser George Gunn is on the right.

"This is the world’s most northerly drystone walling festival and is a community event for people in Caithness," Mr Gunn said. "We want to connect with the local community and attract people from further afield.

"I think the weather is looking good so we hope to get even more people along this year. Everyone is welcome to participate or spectate."

The three speakers taking part are Steven Rowe, who will be talking about stonework in landscaping including extremely large drystone walls in Norway; Jim Fahy, whose subject is the secret language of the old Irish stonemasons; and Linda Wilson, from the south-west Scotland branch of the Drystone Walling Association, who will talk about public walling displays and workshops.

The presentations will be held in the upstairs function room in the Pentland Hotel. They are open to the public and are free.

Mr Gunn said: "The festival is always a fun and relaxed event with experienced instructors helping people to build a drystone feature that we can all be proud of. The coastal scenery is beautiful and the workshop site is overlooking the bay with open views to Orkney. The festival site is within a five-minute walk of the town centre."

The fee for the three-day festival is £90, including on-site catering, or £30 a day.

Mr Gunn, who comes from Caithness, stressed the festival is held to try and generate interest in the ancient craft. His travels to stone festivals abroad led him to think about starting one here.



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