Whaligoe Steps: A Complete Guide

Find out all you need to know including what to do, where to stay, where to eat and how to get to Whaligoe Steps, North Scotland.

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Whaligoe Steps is a descent of over 300 steps down a cliff face on the far north east coast of Scotland. The steps were used by women in the nineteen century to carry baskets of fish from the harbour at Whaligoe up the cliff side and to the market in Wick, the nearest town, around 7 miles away.

Where is Whaligoe Steps
Whaligoe Steps is in Caithness, North Scotland. It is just off the A99 road, 7 miles south of Wick, the nearest town and 23.5 miles south of John O'Groats, the most northerly village of the UK mainland. Whaligoe Steps is 97 miles north of Inverness, the main city in the Scottish Highlands and 250 miles north of Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city.

Whaligoe Steps

What to do at Whaligoe Steps
If you're of reasonable fitness and mobility and the weather is fine, you can go down the steps at Whaligoe which gives views of the sea, cliffs, bird life activity and waters below. A descent and return journey takes no more than 30 minutes. Here's how it looks:

What to do near Whaligoe Steps
Whaligoe Steps is surrounded by Neolithic landmarks and history related to the herring industry in Caithness.

Camster Cairns (8.5 miles)
Visit these two Neolithic chambered cairns or tombs nestled in the countryside between the nearby villages of Lybster and Watten. You can enter inside the cairns if you're of moderate build and agility. More about Camster Cairns.

Cairn of Get (0.5 mile)
This is a curious walk of just over a mile from Loch Watenan, a short distance from Whaligoe Steps (0.6 miles). The Cairn o' Get is a chambered cairn near the A99 by Ulbster and is a similar age to the cairns at Camster. It has been restored and reconstructed less extensively than the Grey Cairns of Camster, if you'd like to see how the ruin of the round cairn at Camster might have looked originally. 

Cairn Of Get Loch Watenan

The Hill O' Many Stanes (2.5 miles)
A short drive from Whaligoe Steps, along the A99 at Mid Clyth lies the Hill O' Many Stanes. This mysterious arrangement of around 200 stones in a circular formation is around 4,000 years old and was probably used for timekeeping or religious ceremony. You can walk around the edge of the stone circle - a visit takes around 10-20 minutes.

Wick (7 miles)
The nearest town centred around a harbour, Wick experienced its heyday in the nineteenth century herring industry boom. Now home to Pulteney Distillery and the whisky liqueur, Stroma, Wick's heritage museum tells the story of its local people sympathetically. With a range of things to do, restaurants, accommodation and transport links, Wick is a good local base for those that wish to be within a small town. More about Wick 

Wick Harbour

If you'd like to see some castles near Whaligoe Steps, consider:

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe (11.5 miles)
An impressive coastal ruin, located precariously on the cliffside near Wick. Listed by the World Monument Fund, the ruin is currently being restored and is home to variety of bird life.

Castle of Mey (27 miles)
The most northerly castle on the Scottish mainland, located between John O'Groats and Thurso. Formerly a home of the Queen Mother, the castle and gardens are now open to the public annually from May to September. Read more

Castle of Mey Flower at the Castle of Mey

Dunrobin Castle (44 miles)
The largest home in the Northern Highlands with a fairy tale chateau appearance and daily falconry displays during the tourist season. With paid entry, you can view a selection of the castle rooms and the gardens; also explore the woodland and coastline. Read more

Dunrobin Castle

Where to eat

  • Whaligoe Steps Cafe and Restaurant located at the top of Whaligoe Steps with sea views inside and out. This restaurant serves Scottish meats like Angus beef and venison and has a Middle Eastern and Meditteranean twist to the menu, serving lunch and dinner. Seasonal opening hours apply, advanced booking is advised. 
  • Waterlines Museum, Lybster (6.5 miles) this local heritage museum at Lybster serves fresh crab roll sandwiches. Seasonal opening applies, therefore check before travel.
  • Wick (7 miles) has several restaurants and cafes for different tastes and budgets including Bisto No. 1 at Mackay's Hotel, a restaurant focused on Scottish cuisine with an extensive whisky bar, and Bord De L'Eau, a French restaurant with daily fish and seafood specials sourced locally. More about Wick.

Where to stay

  • Wick: the nearest town with hotels, B&Bs, self-catering accommodation and a campsite near the River Wick. Read more

How to get to Whaligoe Steps

  • By car: from Wick, drive south along the A99. After Ulbster, you'll see a sign for the Cairn of Get on the right; Whaligoe Steps is the left turn immediately opposite. Once you take this turning, there is parking at the bottom of the cul de sac. 
  • By bus: take the X99 Stagecoach bus south (from Wick) or north (from Inverness). Plan your journey.
  • By train: the nearest railway station is Wick, the last station on the Far North Railway Line from Inverness. The journey is around 4.5 hours. See the timetable

Where to go next

  • North: to John O'Groats, the most north easterly village of the Scottish mainland, and the Orkney Isles.
  • South: to Dunrobin Castle, the largest historic home in the Northern Highlands, and Inverness, the main city of the Scottish Highlands.

Drives

How to find Whaligoe Steps parking
See the turning for Whaligoe Steps and the car park. There is free car parking available for 3-4 vehicles alongside the residential parking. Whaligoe Steps is a two-minute walk from the free car park.

Wick to Lybster
Here is a drive south from the nearest town, Wick passing through Mid Clyth (near the Hill O' Many Stanes) past the turnings for Whaligoe Steps, the Cairn O' Get and Camster Cairns before arriving at the harbour at Lybster. See a narrative for the full journey here.

Inverness to John O'Groats
Here is a complete car journey from the city of Inverness to John O'Groats, the most north-easterly tip of the UK mainland, passing through the Black Isle, by Dunrobin Castle, Helmsdale, Lybster and Whaligoe Steps before continuing to Wick and arriving in John O'Groats.

Further resources
See the drive from Wick to Lybster Harbour, Caithness or read our complete guide to Wick.