History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
But wait! Did Brodie actually have the Steps made? Perhaps not, for records from 1769 suggest that locals used steps here. It does seem that the Steps we see today were Brodie's brainchild, perhaps simply improving an existing set of stairs that were already in use.
There was a cooperage at the top of the cliffs, and barrels from the cooperage were carried down the Steps and used for storing salted herring, which were then loaded onto ships for transport to market.
Even though the harbour was dangerous and the steps made transporting the fish arduous, Whaligoe was used by some 20 ships in the mid-19th century. Unfortunately, 14 of these were herring boats, and when the herring fishery declined in the late 1800s Whaligoe was gradually abandoned. Only 5 boats used the harbour by 1920, and it was completely abandoned by the 1960s.
There is a small parking area above the top of the steps, with a signed area for local residents, of which tere are few. rom thee a path leads past the Whaligoe Steps Cafe, a popular restaurant, to the top of the Steps. There are no information panels to describe the site, but then, you don't really need anything to distract you from the amazing and slightly unnerving beauty of the site.
Take care the steps can be slippery in wet weather, and there are no safety featured here beyond common sense. That said, anyone exercising reasonable care will have no trouble at all navigating the Steps. It will take roughly 5 minutes to descend, and, depending on how fit you are, double that time to come back up. At the bottom you can see the ruins of a salt storage shed on The Bink, and a winch used to help haul boats up onto the rocky shore.
The Whaligoe Steps ought to be more widely publicised; this is an awe-inspiring site, and it is amazing to think of the effort it took to carve the Steps out of the rocky cliffs, but also of how hard life must have been for the men and women who worked here, and ascended these cliffs in good weather and bad.
About Whaligoe Steps
Address: A99, Whaligoe, Caithness, Scotland, KW2 6AA
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: Immediately behind the Whaligoe Steps Cafe, which is signposted off the A99 south of Ulbster. There is a small parking area. Open access site.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Cairn o'Get - 0.7 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Hill o' Many Stanes - 2 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Yarrows Archaeological Trail - 2.1 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Grey Cairns of Camster - 4.4 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Castle of Old Wick - 6 miles (Castle)
Wick Heritage Centre - 7 miles (Museum)
Achavanich Standing Stones - 8.3 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe - 9.7 miles (Castle)
Nearest Accommodation to Whaligoe Steps:
Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Whaligoe Steps. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
Caithness Horizons, Old Town Hall
Highlands and Islands
Tel: 01847 893 155