Thursday, 5 April 2012


The women in this part of Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries must have had incredible stamina. At Whaligoe, a steep flight of up to 365 steps (estimates vary between 330 and 365) zigzags down to Whaligoe Haven, a small natural harbour. The steps were built in the late 1700s to facilitate the unloading of herring, in spite of the spot having been dismissed by Thomas Telford, who was prospecting the area, and who described this location as "a terrible spot". At the bottom of the steps is a platform where the fish were unloaded from the boats down below, and the fisherwomen, some of advanced years, would carry the fish up the steps in creels (wicker baskets) . Sometimes the fish would be salted in barrels part-way down the steps, in which case the fisherwomen would carry the salt down the steps, which must have been incredibly precarious. The ruins of the old salt store are still visible, as is the barking kettle, a stone cauldron which was filled with bark and cow urine and used to boil nets, while on the cliff top there is an old 19th century herring station. The name Whaligoe derives from "whale geo" or "inlet of whales", and this stretch of coast has a whole series of these "geos". A walk down the steps and back up makes an exhilarating coastal experience, especially when accompanied by the cacophany from the many nesting fulmars. Just inland of Whaligoe there is a 5,000-year-old burial tomb called the Cairn o'Get.

Map of the area.

File:Whaligoe Steps - - 893169.jpg
Photo by Sylvia Duckworth, via Wikimedia Commons

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