Whaligoe, between Wick and Lybster, Caithness

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Sun, 2009-11-22

Similar in almost all aspects to Sarclet, the difference being the grassy roadway is exchanged for 360 steps.

Explore the fishing station, admire the hardiness of the fisherwomen who carried the daily catch up the steps, but leave your dive gear at the top!

Whaligoe is a small natural harbour in use at the peak of the herring fishing era. Just south of the town of Wick in Caithness on Scotland’s most northeasterly coast lies a most spectacular creation.

Under sail and the expertise that would have been needed in rough or even not so rough weather to control a small sailing craft into Whaligoe without being smashed to bits. An anchor may have had to be used to gradually pull boats slowly into harbour to prevent being thrown onto the rocks.

Check also How to find Whaligoe Steps?

About Whaligoe

A narrow cleft enclosed by steep cliffs between two headlands, Whaligoe (whale geo or inlet of whales) forms an inlet on the east coast of Caithness, 6 miles (9 km) northeast of Lybster and 7 miles (11 km) south of Wick. From the clifftop 365 steps built, in the 17th century and representing each day of the year, descend to the inlet which was a landing place for fishermen. Boats were winched up and lashed down in bad weather. On the clifftop stands a 19th-century herring station.

The great industry of Wick is fishing, particularly herring fishing. During the season, in July and August, this gives the place a somewhat ` ancient and fish-like smell,’ and herring and herring barrels are everywhere to be found along the shore, sometimes occupying considerable spaces along the sides of the streets in the portion of the town nearest the harbour.

The fishery district of Wick extends from Whale Goe or Whaligoe, 7 miles N by W of the town of Wick, round the rest of the Moray Firth and N and W coasts as far as Cape Wrath. It embraces the fishing towns and villages of Whaligoe, Sarelet, Wick, Ramsgoe, Broadhaven, Greenigoe, Uttergoe, Elzie, Staxigoe, Ackergill, Keiss, Nybster and Auckingill, Freswick, Duncansbay, Stroma, Huna, Gills, Mey, Scarfskerry, Ham, Brough, Dunnet, Murkle, Thurso and Scrabster, Crosskirk and Brims, Sandside, Portskerry, Strathyhead, Armadale, Kirktomy, Farr, Torrisdale, Scullomy, Talmine, Eri boll, and Smoo. Half of the boats and men employed, and about two-thirds of the first-class boats, belong to Wick itself and the neighboring places.

Whaligoe, (whale geo or inlet of whales) is a small port was prospected by Thomas Telford in 1786 during his tour of the Northern Fishing Harbours for the British Fishing Society – his judgement of the place was that it was a “terrible spot”! However undaunted, Captain David Brodie expended the princely sum of £8 to cut the famous 330 steps; his confidence was rewarded in 1814 with the harbour supporting 14 herring boats.
More info: http://www.ports.org.uk/port.asp?id=582

Fig: Whaligoe, between Wick
and Lybster – Shore Dive

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