wick

 

 

Wick, a kind of hidden gem on the route simply because many drive straight through on Route to John O’Groats or heading to Inverness.

With a population of around 7,000, Wick is steeped in history and has so much to offer in the town and very close by making it an ideal place to use as a base for 3 days, or more.

Wick was originally a town of two places, with the Town of Wick on the Northern side and Pulteneytown, which was developed on the south side of the river by the British Fisheries Society during the 19th century, and was officially merged into the burgh in 1902.

Wick has a history dating back to Iron Age as activity in the parish of Wick is evident in the hill fort at Garrywhin.

Evidence of activity around Wick from the Norse pagan period was discovered in 1837 when brooches and bracelets from the Norse were uncovered by archaeologists.

The name Wick appears to be from a Norse word, vík, meaning bay.

With our Maps you can find the right accommodation in this area, and you don’t have to stay ‘in’ Wick as you can easily change the itinerary to suit your base.

These itineraries are to be used as a guide and are designed to help you plan your days in Wick and the surrounding area. You can mix and match and change the days around so you can plan the best days ‘Out’ depending on the weather forecast

Like all our itineraries, they are a guide, most days you will have plenty free time, use it to go and check out the local area, virtually all accommodation providers can tell of great places to go to.

Wick, which will always be remembered as the Herring Capital of the World is ideal as in the Town itself you have the World Renowned Pulteneytown Distillery and the first-class Wick Heritage Centre.

Wick has also its great Harbour, much quieter these days but still plenty of activity.

From here you can go on a wonderful sea trip with Caithness Seacoast where you will see from a different perspective, the abundance of Wildlife and Castles and sea stacks, and much more.

Like most of our Itineraries, we highly recommend spending at least one day in the local town itself.

 

 

DAY 1

A Day in Town

 

wick

 

What to do in and close to Wick will depend on what you are interested in.

The Pulteneytown Distillery is a must for everyone, young and old. And from there it is easy enough to walk down to the Harbour and onto the Heritage Centre both these are well worth the time and walking will allow you to see the Town itself and with a wee walk around the harbour is great.

In the Town, you have one of the Best run Family Hotels North of Inverness, The MacKays Hotel, a great place to stay eat and drink and with their restaurant The No1 Bistro which sits on Ebenezer Place, which happens to be the Shortest Street in the World!

You can if you’re feeling energetic enough, take a walk up Wick river. Walking up one side and back the other side makes a great walk with lovely scenery and will certainly help blow away any cobwebs away.

Time for more walks, then consider a walk to the Old Man of Wick and the stunning Brig o Stack

 

 

Day 2

A Day to Remember

 

There is plenty to see and do all within easy driving of Wick.

This route takes in the Best of what is on offer, where you stop is up to you, these are purely a suggestion and what we feel should be taken in.

If you wish you could easily spread this drive into two days, it is all how you want it to be.

We suggest driving south from Wick, heading to Whaligoe Steps and Café, this is about a 10-15 minute drive but be warned, Whaligoe Steps is ‘Not Signposted’

 

 

whaligoe steps

 

 

Using the Map, once south of Thrumster keep an eye out for the signpost for the Cairn o’Get as the Steps are directly opposite.  Also, be aware that there is a very small car park at the Steps/Café and is certainly not suitable for large vehicles due to very small turning point.  The Steps really are a must so make the effort.

Leaving the Steps we make our way to Occumster where we turn towards the Grey Cairns of Camster which are well signposted.

Like the Steps, the Cairns is well worth the stop and again parking is very limited.

Heading away from the Cairns we travel along a narrow road in what looks a rather flat and desolate area of Caithness, but you’ll soon notice the Huge Wind farms that seem to dominate the landscape of the Northern Highlands.

Eventually, we reach civilisation and the small village of Watten and Loch Watten, which is the largest Loch in the County. Watten itself housed a POW Camp during WW2 and it was this camp that was a camp for some of the most notorious members of the Third Reich.

Driving through this part of Caithness you pass closely to the Fantastic CoCo Chocolatier, the one place that allows you to become a Chocolatier for the Day. Check them out and do something different on the trip and allow Mandy to show you how to make your own fabulous Chocolate.

CoCo Chocolatier

 

 

 

 

As you continue to travel Northwards we reach the village of Castletown.

Like many places in Caithness, it has a long history from its flagstone days to an important player in WW2.

Castletown’s industrial past is celebrated by the Flagstone Heritage Trail and the Castlehill Heritage Centre. The first of these leads you through the surviving buildings from the quarry at Castlehill en route to the still functional harbour. The heritage centre has a background in the flagstone industry and other aspects of local history. It is housed in a farm steading close to the slate quarry at Castlehill.

A mile and a half south-east of Castletown is the site of what was once RAF Castletown. This opened in 1940 as a base for fighter aircraft defending Scapa Flow on Orkney. Although the base closed by mid-1945, parts of its runways can still be seen on the ground, along with remains of some buildings.

From Castletown, we carry on toward’s the most northerly point of the British Mainland, Dunnet Head.

On this peninsula, you have the RSPB Nature Reserve, here you can find bids like the puffin, razorbill, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes, the reserve is also home to the Dunnet Head Lighthouse built in 1831 by Robert Stevenson, grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson

Also, close by you have the World Famous Distillery of Rock Rose Gin.

Once complete here we continue along with the North Coast passing places like the Castle of May, made famous by the Queen Mother who made it her home and turned it into the splendid Castle that you see today.

As you rive you see the island of Stroma, which itself has an amazing story to tell. Eventually, we arrive at John O’Groats

Obviously John O’Groats needs no introduction as it is well known throughout the World.  For many folks, it is the most Northerly point, but as we now know that belongs to Dunnet Head.

John O’Groats is a great place with many wee shops, Cafes and other eateries and with plans afoot to make it even more appealing to the Thousands of annual visitors.

A short distance from here and well worth the effort is Duncasby Head with its Lighthouse and fascinating Sea Stacks.  We certainly recommend walking to the stack and beyond them to get the best photos.

Now we head back towards Wick passing Keiss Castle on the A99.

Keiss Castle is well worth a stop and look at, with its fascinating history.

As we arrive back at Wick, do take the extra trip to one of my favourite places, Castle Sinclair Grinigoe and Noss Head lighthouse

You can now even stay at the Lighthouse as the Lighthouse Keepers cottage is now available as a place to stay, (How Cool).

This is a great drive and where and how you drive it is up to yourself.  The places we mention are just our favourites, but you can make your own list but a drive around Caithness is certainly a great day out.

 

 

Day 3

Going Beyond the Shores

 

We highly recommend this to be done on one of your days in the Highlands.

This is a wonderful experience and well worth every penny. All we can hope is the weather is kind but if not the experience will live with you forever.

The Highlands is a fascinating place filled with History, Culture and scenery to compete with anywhere in the World.

But to travel this far and not take the opportunity to go one step further would be a mistake.

From John O’Groats they run a ferry to the fantastic Island of Orkney, it is so close you just have to go.

The John O’Groats ferry offers a one-day Maxi trip. Check the website for times etc.

It normally leaves early in the morning and will take you on a 40 minutes trip to Orkney across the famous Pentland Firth which links the Atlantic Ocean with the North Sea.

The Firth is rich in marine wildlife and the many isolated islands provide secure breeding places for thousands of sea birds. Look out for seals and whales.

On arrival, you are met by a coach at Burwick ready to drive you across the Churchill Barriers which were built in the 1940s and thread five islands together to form the eastern boundary of Scapa Flow.

You also have a stop at Kirkwall which is the largest town on the Islands with a population of around 9000.

Here you can see the St Magnus Cathedral founded in 1137 by Earl Rognvald and Tankerness House Museum & Gardens.

Continue along the northern coast of Scapa Flow with beautiful views of the Hoy hills across the water. Stromness is surely one of Britain’s most picturesque towns.

Walkthrough the winding main street and visit the museum which features Orkney’s connection with whaling and the early development of the Hudson’s Bay Company, also photographs of the First World War German Fleet. The Pier Arts Centre is also well worth a visit.

Then onto the neolithic village of Skara Brae, 2,500 BC, which has been hidden under sand dunes, perfectly preserved for thousands of years and was only rediscovered 100 years ago.

Our route then takes us onto a narrow tongue of land between the lochs of Harray and Stenness with a photo stop at the mystical Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

On return to Burwick stop at the Italian Chapel, and this place is amazing.

The Italian Chapel is a highly ornate Catholic chapel built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow.

Italian chapel

Only the concrete foundations of the other buildings of the prisoner-of-war camp survive. The chapel was not completed until after the end of the war and was restored in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. This place alone is worth the trip, magnificent.

This Maxi Trip will certainly give you appetite to visit more of the Islands, but for one day, you will receive many great memories.

 

Like all our itineraries feel free to use them how you like, they are intended as a guide and hopefully, the information provided will help you plan your trip and make it unforgettable.