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.
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.
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 Opening Times
Whaligoe Steps are open every day, all year round.
Best Time To Visit Whaligoe Steps + Tips
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
The History Of Whaligoe Steps
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 man-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.
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.
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 man-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.
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.
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