Wick Visitor Information Guide
Wick, The origins of Wick (from Old Norse 'vik, 'bay') go back to Viking times when a small settlement was established here in the far north-east of Scotland. It matured over the centuries until, in 1589, it was accorded royal burgh status. Even then, its claim to 'fame' was rather muted until, in 1767, its foundations as a herring port were laid by three local men. In 1808 the British Fishery Society obtained land on the south side of the' town's 'harbour and a model fishing village, Pulteney town, was built under the direction of Thomas Telford, who named many of its streets after his friends. From then on Wick became one of the most important ports while the herring swarmed in huge shoals round the northern coasts of Scotland. In its heyday 1100 fishing boats used the port and you could walk from wick to Pulteney town across the harbour stepping from one boat to another.
- Wick Latitude: 58.438936 Longitude: -3.093716
- Postcode KW1
The herring fishing industry began to fail by the turn of the century and Wick had to turn to other economic bases to survive. Happily, the whitefish industry has offered a partial salvation, though the heady days of last century have quite disappeared. Echoes of those days are much in evidence with fine wide streets and attractive wooded squares. The houses show the sombre colour of the local stone used in their construction: Caithness flagstone. This material was once so popular that an industry was founded on cutting and polishing the stone, which was then exported south to London, to the Continent, and even as far as Melbourne in Australia.
The former use of the flagstones, as dykes around farms, is still seen in the Caithness hinterland. In keeping with the enterprise that the Wickers have always displayed, there is a variety of industrial operations in the town, ranging from high technology underwater television systems, for use in North Sea oil rig and pipe maintenance, to the continuation of the age-old craft of glassmaking. Some of the world's finest glass paperweights are made here, while the engraved glass products are superb examples of this art form; the works at Harrow Hill have in fact become a great tourist attraction.
The local distillery produces 'Old Pulteney', of which the Highland novelist Neil Gunn, himself a native of Caithness, once said 'It has to be come upon as one comes upon a friend, and treated with proper respect. ' Echoes of the past fishing history of Wick are displayed in the Wick Heritage Centre on Bank Row, housed in buildings which were once part of Telford's plans. Wick's past is also seen in the most complete collection of Victorian photographs of any Scottish town: over 100,000 glass negatives, many prints from which are on display to offer a unique experience and link with the heady days of yesteryear. Wick B&B owners can advertise free.