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Whaligoe Steps In Scotland – A Complete Guide

Zig-zagging down a cliffside to a remarkable natural harbour, Whaligoe Steps are located near the town of Wick on the east coast of Scotland. Here is a complete guide.

How To Get To Whaligoe Steps

Located just off the A99 coast road between the village of Lybster and the town of Wick on the east coast of Scotland, Whaligoe Steps can be tricky to find.Car

Whaligoe steps are not signposted on the main road so following Google Maps is key.

Coming from the south on the A99 look for the sign for ‘Cairn of Get’ at Occumster. Just past this sign is a telephone box and you take the right turning there.

Follow this road to the small, free car park. Once parked, walk along the driveway towards the house and then carry on by the side of the house.

Continue walking towards the wall in front of you and you will come to the top of Whaligoe Steps.

Tour

For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.

Whaligoe Steps Entrance Fee

It is free to visit Whaligoe Steps.

Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
The entrance to Whaligoe Steps from the tiny car park.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
Will leading the way down.

Whaligoe Steps Opening Times

Whaligoe Steps are open every day, all year round.

Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
Following down carefully with the camera.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
The cliff views from the top.

Best Time To Visit Whaligoe Steps

We would recommend visiting in fine weather if possible to enjoy the incredible views.

Also the flagstone steps become quite slippery when wet so we would recommend sensible shoes.

Look out for local ‘Davey’ who lives at the top of the steps and is happy to give you lots of interesting information about them. One of the many characters you’ll meet on your NC500 itinerary.

If you are a keen birdwatcher, look out for the oystercatchers and terns that nest in the cliff sides and circle around the harbour.

What To Pack

Photography Camera

Tripod

Day Bag

Power Bank

Reusable Water Bottle

Sunscreen

Lightweight Rain Jacket

Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
Heading down the many steps.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
First glimpse of blue sea.

Whaligoe Steps History

Whaligoe is a small harbour which, in 1786, during his tour of northern fishing harbours for the British Fishing Society, Thomas Telford declared to be a ‘terrible spot’.

(Thomas Telford was a British civil engineer who established himself as an engineer of road and canal projects in Shropshire. He also designed numerous projects in his native Scotland, as well as harbours.)

However, following this, and undeterred by Telford’s opinion, Captain David Brodie went on to cut the famous 330 steps into the side of the cliffs. Subsequently, by 1814 this small harbour was supporting 14 herring boats.

Moreover, these machine-made steps enabled fisherwomen to carry their baskets of fish, once gutted, up from the harbour. Whereafter, the fish would be taken, on foot, to the town of Wick, some 7/8 miles away to be sold.

By 1826 the number of boats using the harbour had risen to 24 but sadly, after this there was a steady decline. The last fishing boat to use this harbour was in the 1960s.

The only boats that enter this harbour now are the pleasure boat trips carrying tourists who want to view these famous steps.

Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
More steps.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
Half way down the cliffs.

What To Expect At Whaligoe Steps

Whaligoe Steps zig-zag down the 250 feet high cliff sides to the remarkable natural harbour at the bottom.

The views as you descend/ascend are breathtaking and there have even been occasional sightings of minke whale and sea-eagles from here.

The steps lead down to a grassy bank where you will see the remains of an old salt store, a fireplace and a winch, as well as, old metal rings that the boats would have tied to.

At the height of the herring industry, this little harbour was used to land fish, that would be gutted and then either cured and packed in barrels, to go off to the continent or taken to be sold fresh at the local markets.

The Descent

Walking these 330 flagstone steps gives you an insight into the extremely tough life of the fishermen and women in days gone by.

In fact, as you climb back up, you can imagine them having to carry their heavy baskets of fish all the way up the steep 330 steps and then on to market in Wick.

Nowadays, local people work hard to maintain the Whaligoe Steps for visitors to be able to view this amazing piece of history.

We did not meet him, but one of these locals is a chap called Davey. He lives at the top of the steps and as well as helping to maintain the steps, he is more than happy to chat to people about their history.

So, if passing, it is definitely worth a stop off to see these incredible machine-made steps, enjoy the views and get a feel of the history of this area.

We visited Whaligoe Steps following a quick stop at Rogie Falls in the morning, before camping at John O’Groats for the night. A great way to break up the things to do on NC500.

Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
Finally arriving at the bottom.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
The water is accessible but a little dangerous to swim in.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
The views of the cliffs from below.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
Cliffs both side make it a bay of water.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
The boys completing the climb back up.
Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500
A special moment at the top of Whaligoe Steps.

Where To Stay In Scotland

Luxury

exploreNESS Apartment

Offering free WiFi and free private parking, exploreNESS Apartment is located in Inverness, just 0.8 miles from Inverness Castle.

The property is less than 0.6 miles from Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and 1.6 miles from Caledonian Thistle.

The apartment features 1 bedroom, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 1 bathroom with a shower. Towels and bed linen are provided.

A buffet breakfast is available daily at the apartment.

Mid-Budget

Loch Earn

Located 1.7 miles from Inverness Castle, Loch Earn provides accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking.

There is also a kitchen in some of the units with a dishwasher, a fridge, and an oven.

A continental breakfast is available daily at the bed and breakfast.

Guests can relax in the garden at the property.

Budget

Inverness Youth Hostel

Just 10 minutes’ walk from Inverness Rail Station, Inverness Youth Hostel offers free private parking and bicycle storage.

Eastgate shopping centre is a 10-minute walk from this hostel. Hootananny, a popular music venue, is just 15 minutes’ walk away.

Culloden Battlefield and its visitor centre is just a 10-minute drive away. The banks of Loch Ness and the country village of Dores are both a 20-minute drive away.

All rooms have a shared bathroom. Packed lunch and luggage storage is available on request.

For more places to stay in Scotland, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight.

They search websites and airlines around the globe to find you the best possible routes and prices.

Book Your Accommodation

Use Booking.com to find the best accommodation deals.

They consistently return the cheapest rates on everything from guesthouses to hotels for all of your budget needs.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

They provide travel and medical incident insurance built specifically for digital nomads.

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile.

Book Your Rental Car

Use RentalCars.com to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.


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Whaligoe Steps In Scotland NC500