Originally a Viking settlement named Vik (meaning "bay"), WICK has been a royal burgh since 1589. It's actually two towns: Wick proper, and Pultneytown, immediately south across the river, a messy, rather run-down community planned by Thomas Telford in 1806 to encourage evicted crofters to take up fishing. Wick's heyday was in the mid-nineteenth century, when it was the busiest herring port in Europe, with a fleet of over 1100 boats, exporting tons of fish to Russia, Scandinavia and the West Indian slave plantations. Though redevelopment of the harbour is underway, including the installation of pontoons and facilities for yachts, the town still possesses a down-at-heel atmosphere. If you're here for a few hours, the area around the harbour in Pultneytown, lined with rows of fishermen's cottages, is most worth a wander, with acres of largely derelict net-mending sheds, stores and cooperages around the harbour giving some idea of the former scale of the fishing trade. The town's story is told in the Wick Heritage Centre in Bank Row, Pultneytown (Easter– Oct Mon– Sat 10am–5pm; £3), and the only other visitor attraction is the fairly simple Pulteney Distillery (Mon– Fri 10am–1pm & 2–4pm; tours at 11am & 2pm or by arrangement Tel:01955/602371; £4) on nearby Huddart Street, a few blocks back from the sea.
The best of the hotels is Mackay's, on the south side of the river in the town centre (Tel:01955/602323, Web: www.mackayshotel.co.uk ; Price: 91-110), while reasonable B&B options include Quayside, 25 Harbour Quay (Tel:01955/603229, Web: www.quaysidewick.co.uk ; Price: 51-60), and seventeenth-century Bilbster House (Tel:01955/621212, Web: www.accommodationbilbster.com ; April– Oct, in winter by prior arrangement; Price: 41-50), a lovely manor house five miles towards Thurso.
Good eating options don't abound, though the moderately priced Bord de l'Eau (Tel:01955/604400; closed Mon) on Market Street, which runs along the north side of the river, offers a reasonable menu of classic French standards.