Whaligoe Steps, Caithness

Colour photograph, 2004
Survey by RCAHMS

The Caithness coastline does not possess a large number of accessible, safe havens for landing boats. As a result, small creeks in dangerous, rocky locations had to be utilised by those who earned their living from the sea. At Whaligoe, one can see the result of this short supply of safe havens: the Whaligoe steps and quay.

These 330 flagstone steps date from the mid-eighteenth century and provide access from a fish-curing yard on the cliffs above to a small creek below. A small rubble platform or quay was constructed in the nineteenth century. The steps show signs of continual repair over the years due to the exposure and erosion from the sea.

Traditionally, women carried both nets and fish on their backs up and down these steps. The fish would be carried from small boats up the steps to the fish-curing yard and then down again once gutted, cleaned and pickled, to the waiting ships taking the processed fish to their markets.