town and royal burgh in Caithness, Highland, Scotland, UK

Wick is a town in Caithness in the far northeast of Scotland, with a population of 6870 in 2020. The name comes from Norse vik, meaning a bay. The town first grew up north of the river: in the 19th century the fishing port of Pulteney was established to the south, when herring shoals moved away from the Hebrides to the seas around here, and initially only a rickety footbridge connected the two settlements. Caithness Glass originated in Wick in 1961, though production has now moved to Crieff in Perthshire. Wick (along with Thurso) is a good base for exploring the rugged northern coast around John o'Groats, or as a stopover for the Orkney ferries.

Get in edit

 
Map of Wick (Scotland)

By plane: 1 Wick John o'Groats Airport has flights by Eastern Airways from Aberdeen, Su-F taking 40 min. Loganair no longer flies here. The airport is 1½ miles north of town off A99 to Thurso: Bus 82 stops on that road, or take a taxi, or walk. There's a small cafe in the terminal.

By train: Four trains M-Sa and one Su run north from Inverness via Dingwall, Tain, Golspie (for Dunrobin Castle), Brora, Helmsdale and Georgemas Junction (for Halkirk) to Thurso, then double back through Georgemas Junction taking 4 hr 20 min to Wick. The return trains dance the same hokey-cokey via Georgemas Junction and Thurso then head south to Inverness. Thurso to Wick takes 30 min.

2 Wick railway station is central. The ticket office is open M-Sa, no machines. The toilets and waiting room are open during office hours. There is step-free access to both platforms.

By bus: Stagecoach Highlands X99 runs twice M-Sa from Inverness via Tain, Dornoch, Brora and Helmsdale to Wick, 3 hr 15 min, and continues to Thurso and Scrabster.

By road: the A9 from Inverness crosses Kessock Bridge and Black Isle, running north via Tain, Dornoch, Brora, Helmsdale and Latheron. Turn off onto A99 for Wick: in total about 100 miles (160 km) of undivided highway, reckon three hours. A99 was the historic A9 via Wick to John o'Groats, but the A9 now runs to Thurso and Scrabster.

By boat: see Thurso for the Scrabster-Stromness ferry, and John o'Groats for the Gills Land - St Margaret's Hope and John o'Groats - Burwick ferries.

Get around edit

Bus 82 takes 55 min between Thurso, Halkirk and Wick, hourly M-F, every two hours Sa, only four on Sunday. You can also take Bus X99 or the train to reach Thurso.

Bus 77 runs from Wick to John o'Groats, three times M-F taking 30 min, and two continue to Thurso. In summer a couple of extra buses continue to Gills Land for the ferry. Buses 77A / C just circle Wick town.

Bus 75 runs south every couple of hours M-F to Lybster, Latheron, Dunbeath and Berriedale.

Taxis are Jimmy's (+44 1955 602727) and Miller Cabs (+44 1955 606464).

Car hire is available from Hertz at the airport.

See edit

 
Ebenezer Place, the world's shortest street

In town edit

  • 1 The world's shortest street is Ebenezer Place, according to the Guinness Book of Records. At 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in) long, it's just the tip of the flatiron building between River Street and Union Street, so it has only one side. No 1 Ebenezer Place is the entrance to the bistro of Mackay's Hotel and that was the clincher for Guinness, since it created a postal address.
  • 2 Wick Heritage Museum, 18-27 Bank Row, Wick KW1 5EH (near harbour), +44 1955 605393. Apr-Oct M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa 11:00-15:00. Main collection shows life and times of bygone Wick. It also includes Johnston photography collection, Wick Voices oral history and Isabella Fortuna fishing vessel.
  • Herring Mart on Harbour Terrace, opened in 1832, is maintained as part of the Heritage Museum.
  • Isabella Fortuna is a 45-ft sail fishing vessel, built in Arbroath in 1890. An engine was fitted in 1919 and upgraded in 1932. According to season you may find her berthed in the harbour, under maintenance in the Old Lifeboat Shed, or at sea.
  • The Pilot Station is the little brick hut south side of the harbour, turn of 19th to 20th century, and looking like a deckchair hire kiosk.
  • 3 Old Lifeboat Shed, built in 1915, is the winter home of Isabella Fortuna. The modern RNLI Station is on the harbour middle quay.
  • 4 Tinkers Cave is set into the cliffs. Cave-dwellers long existed here, not because news of the Iron Age, Normans, Agricultural Revolution or Steam Age was slow to travel north, but because these were down-and-out casualties of modern advances; a report of 1866 described their abject poverty and squalour. Cave dwelling here was made illegal in 1915 not on welfare grounds, but because their fires might assist enemy submarines.
  • 5 Castle of Old Wick, March Rd, Wick KW1 5TY (1 mile south of Wick), +44 1667 460232. 24 hours. Ruins of a castle dating from 1100, a stronghold of the medieval Norse Earls of Orkney. It was abandoned in the 18th century. Built with four storeys, only the stump of a tower remains. The interior is unsafe to enter but you mostly come for the sea views. Free.

Further north edit

  • 6 Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, Noss Head KW1 4QT (3 miles north of Wick). 24 hours. Castle Girnigoe was built late 15th century, then Castle Sinclair on top of it from 1606. In 1680 rival branches of the Sinclair clan fought so furiously to own it that it was left a shattered stump. Free.    
  • Noss Head is the scenic promontory half a mile east of the castle, use the same car park.
  • Ackergill Tower is a restored 16th-century centre tower house a mile west of the castle. It was a guesthouse for a time but closed down, and you can't visit.
  • 7 Old Keiss Castle gripping the cliff edge was built around 1600. It was abandoned in 1755 when the owners built (but couldn't afford) the baronial pile of the new Keiss Castle, which remains a private residence. The old castle is free 24 hours, but mind that cliff edge.
  • Keiss Broch a quarter-mile south of that castle was occupied from 1st century BC to 3rd century AD. Its remains are scrappy, as is the adjacent Whitegate Broch.
  • 8 Nybster Broch is Iron Age, and The Broch Project have decided that Caithness needs more broches, so they're re-building one here. Volunteers welcome and you don't have to wear woad.
  • See John o'Groats for points further north. Yes, more broches.

Further south edit

 
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
  • 9 Whaligoe is a natural harbour six miles south of Wick, which gave shelter but until mid-18th century had no practical land access. Then the famous 365 steps were cut, zigzagging down the cliff, and half the fun of coming here is to negotiate these. They made Whaligoe into a fishing port, where the women would gut the herring then lug the creels up to the road. The fish and the fleet moved elsewhere in the 19th century but the steps and harbour have been maintained.
  • 10 Cairn o'Get half a mile inland from Whaligoe is a well-preserved 5000-year-old chambered burial cairn. This hillside is dotted with prehistoric remnants, including the earthworks of Garrywhin hill fort, but the limekiln cut into the slope is maybe 19th century.
  • Bruan Broch is an Iron Age mound along A99 a mile south of Whaligoe.
  • Gunn's Castle is the scraps of a small medieval castle, partly eroded into the sea, a mile south of the broch.
  • 11 Hill o' Many Stanes has an array of some 200 stones up to a metre tall, maybe from Bronze Age 4000 years ago. Aligned stones are common but large arrays like this are rare. Reach them up Red Burn Lane, off A99 at Clyth.
  • 12 Grey Cairns of Camster are two large burial chambers (the "long" and the "round"), likewise 5000 years old and partly restored in the 1980s. You can drive there on the narrow lane between Watten and Lybster, and crawl inside, 24 hr free.
  • Clythness Lighthouse is a stubby 3-storey building of 1916, now automated.
  • Lybster Lighthouse is just a beacon for the village harbour, built 1849.
  • 13 Forse Castle teeters above the cliffs near Latheron. It was built circa 1200 and abandoned around 1600.
  • 14 Latheron, in Gaelic Latharn a muddy place, is the junction of A9 to Thurso and A99 to Wick. Clan Gunn Heritage Society is in the old church, open M-Sa 11AM-4PM. Wag of Forse half a mile north is a type of Iron Age settlement that came after the brochs. Latheronwheel is the small harbour for the village.
  • See Helmsdale for Dunbeath Castle and other points south of Latheron.

Do edit

 
Whaligoe Steps
  • North Baths on the north harbour shore are a bracing tide-filled pool.
  • Golf: Wick GC is on the coast on Reiss, four miles north along A99. White tees 6123 yards, par 69, visitor round £50.
  • Look up your ancestors: Caithness Archives are at Wick Airport, open M Tu Th F 10AM-4PM. They are also gathering together the archives of Britain's civil nuclear industry, which are scattered over multiple sites: it will be some years before this is complete.

Buy edit

Tesco is on the main road north edge of town, open M-Sa 6AM-midnight, Su 8AM-8PM.

Eat edit

  • High St north bank of the river has most eating places, with Spice Tandoori, Bord De L'Eau (below), Devitas Pizzeria, Bombay Spice, Sabz Spice and Supreme Fish Bar.
  • 1 Bord De L'Eau, 2 Market St, Wick KW1 4AR, +44 1955 604400. Tu-Sa noon-2PM, 6-9:30PM; Su 6-9:30PM. French restaurant serving quality food.
  • Queens Hotel at 16 Francis St south of the river has rooms but you mostly come for the food.
  • Wickers World at 21-23 Harbour Quay is a very good café.

Drink edit

  • Alexander Bain is a JD Wetherspoon on High St. Crown Bar is next door.
  • 1 Old Pulteney, Huddart St, Wick KW1 5BA, +44 1955 602371. May-Sep: M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Oct-Apr: M-F 10AM-4PM. The distillery was founded in 1826; it ceased production in 1930 but resumed in 1951 and is now part of InterBev. It has an annual capacity of a million litres and produces a rangle of single malts; they're described as somewhat peaty, but more distinctly smoky and salt-tinged. Tour £15.    
  • E' Iron Wellie was a chalybeate (iron-rich) well at the tip of the headland north of the harbour. Only a marker remains: it's a mercy there are no plans to re-instate it, as its flavour was compared to sucking pennies.

Sleep edit

 
Grey Cairns of Camster
  • 1 Wick River Campsite, Riverside Drive, Wick KW1 5SP, +44 1955 605420. Open Apr-Oct, this is a friendly well-run site by the river, 5 minutes walk from town centre. Height limit 2.89 m on the access lane, high vehicles phone ahead for alternatives. Two-person tent £19, hook-up £27.
  • 2 Nethercliffe Hotel, Louisburgh St, Wick KW1 4NS, +44 1955 602044. Good family-run hotel with bar food. B&B double £100.
  • Mackay's Hotel, Union St, Wick KW1 5ED (central, near railway station), +44 1955 602323. Trad hotel, welcoming and well-run. B&B double £120.
  • 3 Norseman Hotel, Riverside, Wick KW1 4NL, +44 1955 603344. 48 room motel with restaurant (mains £10-25). B&B double £80.
  • B&Bs include Bank Guest House, Queen's Hotel[dead link] and Kirkhouse.

Connect edit

As of July 2022, Wick and its approach roads have 4G from EE, and a basic mobile signal from Vodafone; nothing from O2 or Three. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next edit

  • North to John o'Groats and the rugged north coast past Castle of Mey and Dunnet Head to Thurso.
  • To the Orkney Islands there's a choice of routes. Scrabster-Stromness is best for onward public transport.
  • South to Dunrobin Castle at Golspie, see dolphins in Moray Firth, explore the scenic Black Isle, and over the bridge to Inverness.
  • North Coast 500 is a 500-mile circuit of the coast passing through Wick.
Routes through Wick
John O'Groats  N   S  HelmsdaleInverness




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