If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in the Scottish Highlands, the Whaligoe Steps & Waterfalls should definitely be on your North Coast 500 list.
These historic steps are not only an important part of Scotland’s fishing industry, but they also provide amazing views of the surrounding coastline. In this post, we’ll explore all you need to know about the Whaligoe Steps, from how to get there to what to expect during your visit.
What are the Whaligoe Steps?
The Whaligoe Steps are a series of 365 steps leading down to a natural rock harbour located in the village of Whaligoe in Caithness, Scotland.
They were built by local women in the 18th century to enable them to haul fish up from the boats and sell them in nearby villages. The steps are a testament to traditional Scottish engineering and are extremely well-preserved to this very day.
The cliffs are some 250ft tall and you cannot miss the natural waterfall, It has been described as “One of the most remarkable harbours in Scotland” many times.
Whaligoe Steps Video
Below is a video, plus a very cute local resident (a tabby cat) at Whaligoe Steps. You can see the steps being walked, plus drone footage of the site and coastline.
How do I find the Whaligoe Steps?
Whaligoe is located on the east coast of Caithness, about 11 miles south of the town of Wick.
The steps are signposted from the A99 road, and there is a small car park at the top of the steps. From there, it’s a short walk across the flat-ish ground, then down to the steps themselves.
The address for sat nav is:
Whaligoe, Lybster KW2 6AA
Is there parking at the Whaligoe Steps?
Yes, there is a small car park at the top of the steps where visitors can park their vehicles for free.
The car park is small and will fill up quickly during the busy summer months, so get there early or late if you can.
How long does it take to climb the Whaligoe Steps?
The climb down the steps to the natural rock harbour takes around 10-15 minutes. However, the climb back up can be more challenging, especially for those who are not used to climbing stairs.
It is recommended to take your time and stop for breaks if needed.
Whaligoe Steps by Boat
In the video below by Caithness Seacoast, a local boat tours company based out of Wick, Caithness. You can see what it’s like to enter Lybster harbour cave and Whaligoe
Whaligoe Steps Walk
The Whaligoe Steps Walk is a popular coastal trail that takes visitors along the stunning coastline near Whaligoe.
The full trail is approximately 2.5 miles long and takes around 1.5-2 hours to complete. It starts at the top of the Whaligoe Steps and winds its way along the cliff tops, offering breathtaking views of the North Sea.
Is there a waterfall at the Whaligoe Steps?
Yes, there is a stunning waterfall located at the bottom of the steps that is definitely worth seeing.
The waterfall that cascades down the cliff face, it makes the experience of visiting the Whaligoe Steps all the more unforgettable.
The waterfall begins high up on the cliff face and falls approximately 50 feet before splashing into the water below. The sound of the water cascading down the rocks is soothing and calming, and the mist that rises from the water adds to the already dreamlike atmosphere.
It can be seen from various points on the path leading down to the steps. As with any waterfall, the best time to see it is after a period of rainfall when the water flow is at its strongest. However, even on dry days, the waterfall is still a marvel and it’s easy to see why it’s a must-see attraction along the North Coast 500 route.
It’s worth noting that visitors should take care when approaching the waterfall, as the rocks can be slippery, and the water can be powerful, especially after a downpour. Visitors are advised to wear appropriate footwear and take care when exploring.
Are the Whaligoe Steps closed?
The Whaligoe Steps are open all year round, but they may be closed in adverse weather conditions (you really do not want to go down them in a storm) or for maintenance purposes.
It’s always a good idea to check the local weather forecast before setting out to visit.
You can do that here on the met office website: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/forecast/gfmetq0bk
Is the Whaligoe Steps Cafe closed?
The Whaligoe Steps Cafe was a popular spot for visitors to grab a bite to eat and drink after climbing the steps. However, it is reported that the cafe is permanently closed and is no longer open to business.
Instead, we would highly recommend the small pub called “The Old Smiddy Inn” just North up the road from the steps. The address is: The Old Smiddy Inn, Stewart Cres, Thrumster, Wick KW1 5TS and their phone number is 01955 651256
Is the house at the top of the Whaligoe Steps for sale?
The house a the top of the Whaligoe steps was originally a herring station, sporting a cooperage and stables. Built in 1860 and is a 5-bedroom house, It was until recently known as the Whaligoe Steps Cafe and had/has a commercial kitchen fitted.
Recently this house was up for sale for offers around £325,000 and you can view photos of the inside and grounds of the property here https://www.countryliving.com/uk/homes-interiors/property/a38894796/coastal-home-waterfall-for-sale-scotland/
How many steps are there in the Whaligoe Steps?
There are 365 steps in total, which were originally used to haul fish up from the boats and sell them in nearby villages.
Our Top Tips for Whaligoe Steps
- Get there early or later in the day, the carpark is small
- Remember the camera
- If it’s wet, go extremely careful
- You’re in no rush to get down or up, so enjoy the views
- The waterfall is amazing. Even better if it has rained the day before
- Look out for the wildlife, it’s everywhere
Even in the middle of winter, if the wind& weather is coming over the top of the cliffs, you’re very well sheltered down in steps and take as long as you need to enjoy the sights.
While there at the steps, pause for a few moments to consider the lives of the fishermen and women of strength who carried those fish up all these steps day-in-day-out all those years ago.
If you’re just passing by or on your North Coast 500, do not miss the experience of seeing these steps and the waterfall.
Have You Been to Whaligoe Steps?
Let others know by leaving either a comment below or over on the Whaligoe Steps dedicated attraction page.
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