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Wick ( ) is an estuary town and a royal burgh in the north of the Highlandmarker council area of Scotlandmarker. Historically, it is one of two burghs within the county of Caithnessmarker, of which Wick was the county town. The town straddles the River Wick and extends along both sides of Wick Bay. It had a population of 7,333 in the 2001 census.Pulteneytown, which was developed on the south side of the river by the British Fisheries Society during the 19th century, was officially merged into the burgh in 1902.

The town is on the main highway (the A99-A9 road) linking John o' Groatsmarker with southern Britainmarker. The Far North railway line links Wick railway stationmarker with southern Britain and with Thursomarker, the other burgh of Caithness. Wick Airportmarker is on Wick's northern outskirts. The airport has two usable runways. A third is derelict.

The main offices of The John O'Groat Journal and The Caithness Courier are located in Wick, as are Caithness General Hospitalmarker (run by NHS Highland), the Wick Carnegie Librarymarker and local offices of the Highland Councilmarker. Wick Sheriff Court is one of 16 sheriff courts serving the sheriffdom of Grampian, Highland and Islands.


Wick's history stretches back, at least, to the era of Norwegian rule rule in Caithness, which ended, conclusively, in 1266's Treaty of Perth. The name Wick appears to be from a Norse word, vik, meaning bay. The Castle of Old Wickmarker is on the coast about one kilometre south of the town.



Pulteneytown is now an area of Wick on the south side of the River Wick. Until 1902 Pulteneytown was administered separately from the Royal Burgh of Wick.

Pulteneytown takes its name from Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet, a governor of the British Fisheries Society. In the early years of the 19th century Sir William commissioned Britainmarker's leading civil engineer, Thomas Telford, to design and supervise the creation of a major new herring fishing town and harbour at the estuary of the River Wick.

Pulteneytown was so named after the death of Sir William in 1805 and became a major player in the 19th century herring boom. During this boom period the harbour was expanded still further by local shipbuilder James Bremner. History of this era is preserved in the collections of Wick Heritage Museum.

As created by the British Fisheries Society, Pulteneytown consisted of Lower Pulteney and Upper Pulteney. Lower Pulteney was primarily a working area, built on a sandbank behind the harbour. Upper Pulteney was primarily a residential area, on higher ground.

Pulteneytown Parish Churchmarker (of the Church of Scotlandmarker) is located in Argyle Square and was opened in 1842. Services are held twice every Sunday.

The Old Pulteney whisky distillery is in the Pulteneytown area. The first Caithness Glass factory was also in this area, but Caithness Glass has now left both the town and Caithness.

Wick Bay

Wick Bay is an isosceles triangle with the river mouth as its apex, and the points of South Head and North Head, separated by about one kilometre,as the base of the triangle. Beyond the heads lies the North Seamarker. Pentland Firthmarker line about 11 kilometres north of North Head.

There are three harbours in Wick, the Outer Harbour, the Inner Harbour, and the River Harbour, all of which are formed and protected by breakwaters. The Outer and Inner Harbours are on the south side of the estuary, divided from the River Harbour by a breakwater. The River Harbour straddles the river, with breakwaters on either side of an entrance about 30m wide.

Wick Inner Harbour now has an extensive marina complex, and is fast becoming a base for leisure boating. It is also now a well known stopping point for visiting pleasure craft.

Map references

Latitude and longitude Ordnance Surveymarker

grid reference
North Head
South Head
Wick Harbour

Wick River

Wick River, known also as River Wick, has its source near Achigale Mill at the northern end of Bardarclay Moss ( ) in the Flow Countrymarker of Caithnessmarker in Highlandmarker, Scotlandmarker. The river estuary ( ), is in the North Seamarker bay of Wickmarker ( ) and is straddled by the town of Wickmarker. The source is at a height of about 25 metres, about 11 kilometres west and 2 kilometres north of the estuary.

River basin

The river basin includes Loch Wattenmarker and Loch Tofingall ( ) to the west of the estuary, and Loch Hempriggs and the Loch of Yarrows ( ) to the south/southwest.

Viewed upstream from the estuary, the river and its tributaries can be listed as follows:


At its source the river is the confluence of Scouthal Burnmarker and Strath Burn.

Between the Loch Burn and Wick Bay the river meanders generally east/southeast-ward and receives water from the following streams:

  • The Burn of Winless enters the river at ,
  • Achairn Burn enters at Mary Ford ( ),
  • The Burn of Gillock enters at ,
  • The Burn of Milton enters at ,

and from numerous smaller watercourses.


The Wick River estuary ranges from the vicinity of Wick Harbourmarker ( ) to an area about 2.5 kilometres inland ( ).

On both sides of the estuary, areas of Wick are built on artificial embankment which have narrowed the river channel, or have fixed a channel where otherwise the area would be more that of tidal beach.


The river is spanned by one railway, three roads and two footbridges. In order from the sea, they are:
  • Within Wick ( ), the Harbour Bridge spans the river at its mouth, to link Wick town centre with Wick Harbour and Pulteneytownmarker. It stands instead of the earlier Service Bridge.
  • Also in Wick ( ), the river is spanned by the main road linking John o' Groatsmarker with Latheronmarker and Inverness (the A99-A9). The bridge here is known as the Bridge of Wick and it carries an extension of Wick’s Bridge Street.
  • Around 500 metres west of the Bridge of Wick ( ), a footbridge spans the river via an island in the river, and this serves as a link between recreational meadows on the north and south banks.
  • About halfway between the footbridge and the railway bridge there is another footbridge.
  • Around 300 metres east of Mary Ford ( ), the river is crossed by the railway which links the burgh of Wickmarker with the burgh of Thursomarker and the city of Invernessmarker.
  • In Wattenmarker ( ), the river is crossed by the main highway, A882, linking Wick with Thurso, known as Achingale Bridge.


Wick has history as a royal burgh dating from 1589.

In 1975, under the Local Government Act 1973, the local government burgh was merged into the Caithnessmarker district of the two-tier Highlandmarker region.

In 1996, under the Local Government etc Act 1994, the district was abolished and the region became a unitary council area.

From 1996 until this year, 2007, the town of Wick was covered by two or three ward, each electing one councillor by the first past the post system of election. This year, a single Wick ward was created to elect three councillors by the single transferable vote system. The new ward is one of three within the Highland Councilmarker's Caithness ward management areamarker and one of seven within the council's Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross corporate management areamarker.

There is also the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council, which was created in 1975 when the burgh was abolished. The community council is not a tier of local government but it is recognised as a level of statutory representation. The community council represents an area which is much smaller than that represented by ward councillors, and the ward area also includes parts of other community council areas.

Wick is within the former civil parish of Wick. The parish has that of Latheronmarker to the south, those of Wattenmarker and Bower to the west, and that of Canisbay to the north. The eastern boundary of the parish is Moray Firth coastline.

Parliamentary representation

Wick was a parliamentary burgh, combined with Dingwallmarker, Dornochmarker, Kirkwallmarker and Tainmarker in the Northern Burghs constituency of the House of Commonsmarker of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdommarker from 1801 to 1918. Cromartymarker was added to the list in 1832.

The constituency was a district of burghs known also as Tain Burghs until 1832, and then as Wick Burghs. It was represented by one Member of Parliament. In 1918 the constituency was abolished and the Wick component was merged into the then new county constituency of Caithness and Sutherland.


Old Pulteney Distillery

Pot still in Old Pulteney Distillery
The Old Pulteney Distillery is an aging malt whisky production facility in Pulteneytown. The distillery produces the Old Pulteney Single Malt whisky at a number of ages and has a visitor centre in Huddart Street.

Like Pulteneytown the distillery is named for Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet. The distillery was established in 1826 when Pulteneytown was quite newly established as a herring fishing port. The distillery is the most northerly on the Scottish mainland and was quite inaccessible, when established, except by sea. Barley was brought in by sea, and the whisky was shipped out the same way. At that time many of the distillery workers were also fishermen. Old Pulteney is promoted as a Highland single-malt Scotch.

The distillery is now owned by Inver House Distillers Limited. Other Inver House distilleries include the Speyburn-Glenlivet Distillery, Knockdhu Distillerymarker, Balblair Distillerymarker and Balmenach Distillerymarker.

CHAP (Caithness Heat and Power)

Since 2006 there has been implementation of plans to fuel the distillery with wood chips, in a combined heat and power scheme which will also produce heating for nearby housing and electricity for the power grid.

The gasification plant built to achieve this is now to be decommissioned after trials showed it was unable to achieve what was needed to be economically viable. The distillery and 247 private homes that are already connected to the scheme are receiving heat from an oil fired boiler that was commissioned in 2007 and was indented to be used as a backup to the gasification plant.

In August 2008 this scheme was taken over by the highland council having originally been a community-owned enterprise which had three directors representing the neighbouring distillery, Pulteneytown People’s Project and the Council.


Castle of Old Wick

The Castle of Old Wick
The Castle of Old Wick ( ), known also as the Old Man of Wick was built in the 12th century when the Norwegianmarker earldom of Orkneymarker included Caithness, and was united under Harald Maddadsson. The castle is thought to have been his stronghold on the mainland of Britain. There is evidence that the site was occupied before the present castle was built.

All that remains today is a tall tower sitting on the very edge of the cliffs, about half a mile south of Wick Bay and of the modern town of Wick, but originally the castle had at least 4 stories as well as extra buildings containing workshops and other quarters.

During the 14th century it was owned by Sir Reginald de Cheyne who was a supporter of Edward I during his attempt to establish John Balliol as King of Scotlandmarker, although there is no evidence of a battle having taken place there. It was abandoned in the 18th century.

The castle was built to the same plan as Broughmarker Castle, which is about 29 kilometres to the north/northwest, on the Pentland Firthmarker coast of Caithness.

Heritage Museum

Wick Heritage Museum is in Bank Row, Pulteneytown. The museum is run by the Wick Society, with a strong focus on the herring-boom era of Wick's history.

Carnegie Library

The Wick Carnegie Library is now run by the Highland Councilmarker. As well as providing a general library service the library preserves valuable books and other documents about Wick and Caithness and their histories. Also it preserves a crocodile (Gavialis gangeticus) presented by Sir Arthur Bignold in 1909.

The library building also houses the North Highland Archive and the St. Fergus Gallery exhibitions. The North Highland Archive is part of the Highland Council Archive Service, and holds collections of official and private papers, the earliest dating from 1589, relating to Wick and the county of Caithnessmarker.Construction of the library building, 1897, was part funded by Andrew Carnegie. It is at the junction of Sinclair Terrace and Cliff Road.

Tourist Information Centre

The Tourist Information Centre is now located upstairs in the Mcallan's store on High Street.

World's shortest street

In 2006 it was reported by the BBC that the Guinness Book of Records had confirmed the world's shortest street, Ebenezer Placemarker measuring 2 yards and 9 inches, was located in Wick, containing just one front door. It had not previously qualified for the record because it did not have a full postal address.


There are four primary schools in Wick, all run by the Highland Council. They are Hillhead Primary School, North Primary School, South Primary School, and Pultneytown Academy. There is one secondary school in Wick, Wick High School[103737][103738][103739].

Hillhead's head teacher is Ally Budge. As of January, 2008, it had an enrolment of 205 pupils.[103740] Hillhead has been awarded an Eco-Schools First Green Flag award for Environmental friendliness. In April, 2008, Hillhead Primary was highly praised in a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education. The Inspectorate reported that the quality of teaching and the imaginative learning experiences are key strengths at the school and it provides a caring, supportive and stimulating environment for learning. Head teacher Ally Budge was also highly praised as provided very effective leadership to the school, having the respect and loyalty of parents, pupils and staff, and having developed effective links with the community. The school received a rare "excellent" rating for its partnerships with the local community and parents. The inspector also reported that pupils are well-behaved and developing positive attitudes to learning and to each other.[103741] Other key strengths reported were approaches to promoting a healthy lifestyle, quality of teaching and the imaginative learning experiences, and attainment in mathematics.[103742]

In September, 2008, Wick High School underwent an inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education. The subsequent report was reasonable given the very short period of the inspection; mentioned as particular strengths were "Polite, well-behaved and considerate young people and the commitment by staff and the community to develop a wider range of activities for young people". Other aspects noted were "More young people now take part in activities related to sports and the arts. Many are committed to improving the quality of the environment and a group recently participated in a debate on the environment at the Scottish Parliament", and "The majority of tasks set by teachers meet young people’s learning needs. Those with additional and complex needs are well supported in their learning".The way pupils view the school was stated as " Pupils now have a strong sense of belonging and pride in their school through the introduction of uniform and positive approaches to encouraging good behaviour. Staff and young people have been very successful at improving the overall atmosphere in the school."The school's expectations of pupils was described thus -"The school has high expectations of young people’s behaviour. Staff are applying the behaviour policy well in class and around the school. Staff with pastoral responsibilities give strong support. The climate for learning within the school has notably improved in recent years. Most young people enjoy being at school, feel safe and know those they can speak to if they are upset about something. The school celebrates success through the use of awards at assemblies, display boards in the corridors and articles in the local press. The school has recently made use of outside speakers to help raise attainment and young people’s expectations overall." This was published in a report given to all members of staff and all pupils. It was also made available on line.[103743] At the time of the report, there was an enrolment of 838, and the rector was Alistair Traill.

Recently The Glasgow Herald conducted a survey of all of Scotland'smarker secondary schools. The survey gave a percentage of how many senior pupils had achieved five Highers or more in their tenure at the school, and a percentage of how many pupils received free school meals. In a list of Highland Schools, Wick came 21st out of 30 with 5% of senior pupils having achieved five highers or more. This is 5% behind both the Highland average and the Scottish average of 10%. However, Wick came 3rd out of 30 when it came to free school meals, scoring 15.6%, both ahead of the Highland average of 9.6%, and the Scottish average of 12.7%.

Wick is also home to 1285 (Caithness) Squadron, Air Training Corps.


Wick Academy F.C. play in the Highland Football League.

Twin Towns

Notable people


  1. See Google Maps at coordinates given opposite the title.
  2. See also The Raven Banner
  3. Well researched and documented.

External links

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