"THURSO, a parish, seaport, market and sessions town, and burgh of barony, county Caithness, Scotland, 21 miles S.W. of Wick, and the same distance W. from John-o'-Groat's house. Coaches run to Bonar Bridge in connection with the Highland railway, and the Leith steamers call at the bay, which has good anchorage. It is situated on the north-western coast of the county, at the head of a bay, into which the river Thurso falls, between Dunnet and Holburn Heads, after a course of 25 miles from the borders of Halkirk parish. Vessels of any burthen may find shelter in the bay, or Scrabster Roads, as it is called, in all weathers, but those intending to enter the harbour must wait the tide before they can cross the barony It is a subport to Wick, and has a pier and custom-house. The main export of the place consists of the Caithness pavement, the manufacture of which is carried on to a great extent, and heavy draughts of salmon are occasionally taken in the river, which is here spanned by a stone bridge. The largest draught recorded was in 1743, when 2,560 were taken in one draught of the net. The parish is about 6½ miles in length by 5 broad, and the land is well cultivated. The coast, except near the bay, is rocky, the cliffs rising 400 feet above the sea-level in some parts. The prevailing rocks are Old Red sandstone, coarse slate, and trap, with flagstone, which is quarried. Traces of lead have been found. The town, which is called in Gaelic Inverhorsa, stands on the left bank of the river, about 2 miles to the eastward of the harbour. The streets are neat and clean, and there are many good houses. Many of the inhabitants are engaged in the fisheries and coasting trade, and some in the linen, woollen, leather, and straw-plait manufactures. There are a post-office, masonic lodge, assembly rooms, customhouse, savings-bank, and two branch banks. In the parish are "Picts' houses," a Danish camp, and the ruins of a house where the Earl of Montrose stayed on landing, before his capture. The parish is in the presb, of Caithness. The church was erected in the early part of the present century by Sir G. Sinclair, the projector of the great statistical account of Scotland. There are, besides a Free church, chapels for Original Seceders, Independents, and Baptists, also parochial and Free Church schools, and several private seminaries. A little to the E. of the town stands Thurso Castle, the seat of Sir G. Sinclair, Bart., an ancient building recently enlarged; and at a short distance on the coast is Harold's Cross, erected by the late baronet to the memory of Harold Earl of Caithness, who fell here in 1190. Market day is on Friday. Fairs are held on the last Tuesdays of April and May, second Tuesday in July Monday next before Inverness, Friday after Links of Dunnet, first Tuesday in September, and last Tuesday in October."
Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)