I previously wrote Ten things to see and do in and around Wick. I was lucky enough to be able to return to the town recently and discovered ten more things to add to my list. Here they are:
1. Discover fine architectural details
There are many towns and cities where you are encouraged to look up. This rings true for Wick. Look at the highly detailed stone carving on the columns of the bank on Bridge Street. Glance up at the first floor windows on the Sheriff Court- exotic don't you think? They are a copy of windows from a palace in Venice.
2. Find the lions
Four lion heads with perfect white teeth, red tongues and fierce eyes adorn a fountain on a peaceful riverside location. The fountain sits in a small park with benches, pretty flowers and a view of the Thomas Telford designed bridge.
3. Dinner at Mackay's hotel
What you are looking at is local crab rillette with a caper and pickled cucumber salad. It is creamy, lemony and succulent and will leave you wanting more. Dinner at No 1 Bistro at Mackay's Hotel is exceptional. The food is seasonal and locally sourced, so you will get a true taste of Caithness here.
4. Wick River walks
Wick River runs through the town and you can walk along its banks into the countryside. You might just hear a sedge warbler, a bird that has 50 musical elements in its song. It pours them out randomly, so that it is unlikely that you will hear the same tune repeated twice. The river is also home to a very rare plant, estuarine sedge, which can only be found in America and two other places in Scotland.
5. Wick train station
The very last stop on Britain's railways is Wick, when you travel north. The station is an attractive stone building with arched Georgian-style windows and exposed roof beams. Go before departure time when the sound of the idling engine seems amplified because trains are almost enclosed inside the building. It brings a bit of noisy drama and a sense of occasion to the start of an epic journey on the Far North Line, perhaps hinting at the bygone era of steam locomotives.
6. Cliff Bakery
A Scottish town with a good bakery is a town worth visiting. The Cliff Bakery is proper old school. The cakes are displayed in the trays that they are baked on, instead of being displayed in neat individual slices. It gives a more authentic and homemade feeling to the place. Try the toffee mallow cake for a bit of fluffy, sweet deliciousness.
7. Walk up famous steps
A few years ago a painting of these steps sold for £890,500. It was by L.S. Lowry the renowned painter of English industrial landscapes, characterised by their matchstick figures. Lowry took holidays in Scotland and painted Black Steps, Wick, in 1936. The painting captures the stairs at a busy moment with lots of people, including a child being pushed in a wheel barrel, thankfully in front of the steps and not down them.
8. Feel like you are in a Lowry painting at Old Pulteney Distillery
The scenes in Lowry paintings are from a bygone era, but if you walk up the Black Steps and continue to Old Pulteney Distillery some of that Lowry atmosphere is recreated. The collection of buildings, warehouses and tenements, still black from pollution, the smell of malt and the smoke coming out of the distillery is reminiscent of an industrial scene. It captures something of Wick's past as a very busy working town of fishermen, cabinet makers, blacksmiths, boat builders and shoe makers.
8. Lunch at Morag's
This a friendly place where you will hear banter between Morag and the locals. It is also superb value and quality. I had the best cheese and pickle sandwich of my life here. The filling was thick with a generous quantity of grated cheese. The bread chunky and soft. It also came with crisps, potato salad, tomato, lettuce and cucumber. All this for £2.75. "Everything here is made fresh," Morag told me whilst chatting away and making me feel very welcome. There is also a quality coffee machine churning out very good cappuccinos. Why not treat yourself to something from the lengthy and exciting milkshake menu? Flavours include pavlova banoffee, creme egg and chocolate orange jaffa cake.
10. Statue of the historian
Jame Calder wrote a history of Caithness in 1861. His statue is by the river, near the train station. It has a young face with curly hair, clutching a scroll, with a top hat resting on a folded up coat. A quote on the plinth explains why Calder felt "a strong attachment" to Caithness. I presumed he would be saying something about the heritage and landscapes, but no it was people that made this place special to him: "it is the residence of all my best and dearest friends; and it contains within its bosom the ashes of my kindered."
More about Wick:
For some more ideas about what to see and do in Wick read my previous post, Ten things to see and do in and around Wick.
Read my review of Mackays Hotel in wick