I was surprised by just how much there is to see and do in Wick. I had assumed that this town in Scotland's far north, the very last stop on the rail network, would be lacking in attractions. How wrong I was! There are two castles, a whisky distillery, standing stones and much more to keep you busy for many days. Here are my ten favourite things to do:
1. Whaligoe Steps
The cliffs are dramatic, the sheer drop to the water below is scary and seabirds squawk and swoop. Wildflowers and sea grass sprout from the rock and cracks in the stairs. The Whaligoe Steps descend steeply to a disused harbour that dates from the 1790s. Do not miss the cafe at the top of the steps- it has a huge picture window looking out to sea and you can sip on gourmet coffees and enjoy the home baking.
Located 8 miles south of Wick on the A-99. Use this guide as the steps are notoriously difficult to find.
2. Wick Heritage Centre
Allow at least two hours to absorb the contents of this treasure trove of a museum. It is crammed full of curious objects from Wick's past, including reminders of the town's vast fishing enterprise. For a time Wick had been the busiest fishing port in Britain. The biggest catch in a single day occurred in 1864 when 24 million herring were landed. Make some time to enjoy the museum's gardens with their colourful flower displays and views over the town.
3. Castle of Old Wick
A dramatic coastal walk brings you to one of the oldest castles in Scotland. It dates from 1100 and only the ruined tower remains. It is located one mile south from the centre of town. On the way you pass the Trinkie, Wick's outdoor pool- try it out, if you are brave enough!
4. Wander the streets of Pulteneytown
Pulteneytown is an area of Wick that was built by Thomas Telford, Scotland's most famous civil engineer, to house the workers and services that supported the fishing boom. It is laid out in a grid pattern with attractive stone buildings that make it a pleasant area for a stroll. Don't miss Argyll Square which has a small tree-lined park in the middle of it.
5. Old Pulteney distillery
It is in Pulteneytown that you will find Old Pulteney Distillery. This is the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland and this location gives the whisky its unique character. If you visit the small visitor centre and shop you are bound to be offered a free dram to see for yourself if you can taste the hint of sea salt. For a more in-depth experience there are guided tours.
6. Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
I was surprised to discover that Wick had one, never mind two castles. Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is located a bit further away from the town, just over 4 miles north. It is a nice quiet road to get there, so walking is a possibility if you do not have your own transport. The location is impressive with the ruin teetering on a cliff edge. You can cross into the courtyard across a wooden footbridge and look through the gaping windows to the sea far below.
7. Staxigoe Harbour
This is a beautiful little spot on a warm sunny day. The perfect place to come with a picnic lunch. It is a surprise to discover that this peaceful place had once been the largest herring station in Europe. It is now difficult to imagine the army of sail-makers, gutters and coopers who crowded Staxigoe Harbour. The harbour is about 2 miles from Wick High Street.
8. Hill o' Many Stanes
The name of this place does exactly what it says on the tin- a hill with over 200 stones. The deliberate layout of the stones in neat rows makes it easy to picture ancient peoples putting them here for religious ceremonies, to follow lunar cycles, or a place for families to remember ancestors. The truth is that nobody knows for certain why the stones are here which makes it all the more intriguing. The stones are located about 9 miles south of Wick along the A99.
9. Thrumster station
An unexpected site next to the A99 road is this cute wooden station with a piece of train track that goes nowhere. Trains have not run here since 1944 when this was part of the 13 mile Wick and Lybster Light Railway. There is not much to see, although you can peer through the windows and admire the refurbished interior with wood panelling and fire place. Thrumster is located about 4 miles south of Wick
10. The World's shortest street
The road sign into Wick for Mackays Hotel has a curious note in brackets 'on the Shortest Street in the world'. Who would have thought that the shortest street is located in Wick? It is official, according to Guiness Book of Records, that Ebenezer Place in Wick is the shortest street in the world at 2.06m. The door to the restaurant of Mackays Hotel is the only thing on Ebenezer Place. The food is good so why not treat yourself to a meal on the world's shortest street?
More about Wick:
On my second visit to Wick I discovered ten more things to see and do, which you can read on my blog
Read my review of Mackays Hotel, which is on the shortest street in the world