There is early settlement evidence dating back to the Iron Age and the name Wick is thought to originate from a Norse word, vík, meaning bay. In the 8th century an Irish missionary called St Fergus lived in Wick and is known as the patron saint of the town. During its chequered history, this part of Caithness was once ruled by Norway. Wick itself was granted royal burgh status by James VI in 1589 and its heyday came in 19th century when it was the busiest herring port in Europe.
Cross the River Wick and you will find yourself in Pulteneytown which was designed in a grid pattern by Thomas Telford to house the crofters who were being forced from their homes during the Highland Clearances and encouraged to gain employment as fishermen. Lord Pulteney was Governor of the British Fisheries Society and a patron of Thomas Telford whose work can still be seen across Scotland today in numerous bridges, churches and the great engineering feat of the Caledonian Canal. Take a stroll around leafy Argyle Square to get a sense of days gone by. Pulteneytown is also home to Old Pulteney whisky distillery, established in 1826, and which now offers guided tours and tastings.
Wick Heritage Centre is where you can learn about local history with displays showing a kippering kiln, a working lighthouse and a cooperage. As well as rooms set out as they would have been in days gone by, the centre also houses the Johnston Collection of some 40,000 photographs depicting 115 years of history. The Wick Society which runs the centre also looks after Scotland's oldest remaining fishing boat, Isabella Fortuna, which is usually berthed in Wick Harbour during the summer months. In the winter she is housed in an old lifeboat shed on the south bay.
Covid update: Wick Heritage Centre will remain closed for 2020.
Wick is one of the larger towns on the North Coast 500 route which is a great way of exploring the rugged coastline and secluded beaches of Caithness, together with the area's castles, distilleries and prehistoric sites. It is linked to Inverness by train on the scenic Far North Line. You can continue further north to the famous village of John O'Groats or take the ferry over to Orkney.
Scotland's Best B&Bs near Wick:
Auld Post Office B&B
This 4 Star Gold B&B in Caithness is set in 8 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens and private woodland. Choice of 2 en-suite bedrooms (kingsize or super-kingsize) with individual French doors to the patio and gardens. Self-contained Annex Cottage with 1 twin / superking double room with a log-burning stove in the cosy lounge and private garden area. Quietly situated in the countryside on the A9 and North Coast 500 route, it is a short drive from Thurso and Wick. Attractions in the area include cliff-top walks, sea bird colonies, archaeological sites, distilleries and boat trips to Orkney, as well as the Queen Mother's former castle and gardens. The Auld Post Office can offer a unique Gin Tasting Evening where you will be guided through different flavours.
Sharvedda Bed & Breakfast
This 4 Star GOLD B&B is located in the far north of Sutherland on the spectacular North Coast 500. Sharvedda has panoramic views over Strathy Bay and is ideal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts wanting a remote, tranquil getaway. Explore Sutherland's mountains and coast - see birds, marine wildlife, sea stacks, caves and beaches. Visit the Castle of Mey or take the ferry to Orkney. Choice of 2 guest bedrooms (1 double and 1 twin). A full Scottish breakfast is served in the conservatory with views from Strathy Point to Dunnet Head and across the waters of the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands. Light evening meals are available by arrangement.
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