As we embarked on our journey exploring the enigmatic North Coast 500 in Scotland, we chanced upon the hidden treasure that is Whaligoe Steps. Nestled off the beaten path, without any signage leading to Whaligoe itself, we would have undoubtedly missed it if not for the indispensable NC500 app, available on both Apple App and Google Play Store. The app proved invaluable in discovering local points of interest, and the captivating history and favourable reviews of Whaligoe Steps piqued our curiosity.
The Whaligoe Steps, a remarkable man-made creation, consist of 365 steps that lead down to a quaint harbour, ensconced by towering 250ft cliffs teeming with an impressive array of seabirds. The descent, though stunning, can be rather unnerving for some due to the sheer drop and steepness of the steps. In inclement weather, the steps may become slick and precarious, as we experienced during our visit. However, the mesmerising views more than compensate for the trepidation one might feel.
Upon reaching the bottom, one is transported back in time as the intriguing history of Whaligoe unfolds. The remnants of the old salt store used for curing fish and a hand-powered winch bear witness to a bygone era. Here, the tenacious women of Whaligoe, some well into their 70s, would haul in the day’s catch of herring, cod, or haddock. With remarkable strength and perseverance, they prepared the fish and hoisted it up the steps in baskets on their backs, only to then trek several miles to the bustling fish markets in Wick.
The Whaligoe Steps owe their preservation to the indefatigable efforts of Etta Juhle. In 1975, she singlehandedly cleared a staggering 30 tons of rubble from the steps after a landslide. A touching tribute to this extraordinary woman can be found along the descent, reminding visitors of the determination and resilience that defines Whaligoe’s history.
Whaligoe Steps is a hidden gem that offers a unique and memorable experience, combining stunning natural beauty, fascinating history, and a testament to the human spirit. A visit to this captivating location is sure to enrich any North Coast 500 itinerary and leave a lasting impression on those who traverse its storied steps.
Free parking available at Whaligoe Steps alongside the residential parking – and space for around 3-4 vehicles.
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