It was a fine weekend morning in April, a perfect day for hopping on a speedboat along the Caithness coast! When we lived in Inverness I had been on the Dolphin Spirit boat trips in the Moray Firth, but never got around to booking a place on their RIB trip. However, Wick has Caithness Seacoast so the fine "Geo Explorer" was our vehicle for transporting my brother and I on the 7 miles south to the Whaligoe Steps!
A maximum of 12 passengers are permitted on each boat trip which means everyone gets a good view no matter where you sit on the boat (although if you have a bad back, it's advised that you sit nearer the back).
Our morning started with firstly getting our waterproofs and lifejackets on at the Caithness Seacoast base. Passengers are advised to layer up prior to arriving because it is chilly out on the open water. I had a vest, shirt, thin fleece and thick fleece underneath the waterproofs. My advice to those with long hair, tie it back or tuck it into the hood of your jacket! Once we'd taken the short walk from the base to the boat, we were given the essential safety briefing and instructions on the features of the lifejacket if we needed to use it (SPOILER: We didn't), and then we were off on the open sea!
Our guide William (who runs Caithness Seacoast with his wife Adelaine, who got us waterproofed up on dry land) was an absolute mine of information throughout the trip.
As we left the harbour and the area of Pulteneytown behind, William explained about the area of Pulteneytown, which was designed by Thomas Telford in the 1800s. He also designed the Caledonian Canal, and Wick harbour, which at one stage became the busiest herring port in the world! As we continue to settle into Wick, we're enjoying getting to know more about the rich local history here.
Now, like many other harbour towns in Scotland, there is not much of a fishing industry left in Wick, but William was quite optimistic about the new industries which are bringing in much-needed jobs and funding to the area. One such industry is a new offshore wind farm which will be Scotland's largest, which is being constructed just over 8 miles away from the Caithness coast.
We could just about see elements of the wind farm on the horizon, and Caithness Seacoast often operates tours out to the wind farm whilst it is in construction. But for our trip, we were looking at the different features of the stunning coast.
In between some speedy stages going at about 20-25 knots (equivalent to 23-28 mph), we slowed down to enter dark caves.
The water was very calm, with no choppy seas causing seasickness, thankfully! Many of the sea birds were bobbing along quite happily as we got snap-happy. Again William was very good at pointing out the different species, and we all got excited as we spied our first puffin!
I had been organised enough to dig out an old waterproof phone case which I had used on a holiday in Egypt once, but on the day we sailed, there was no need for it. I kept it in the waterproofs pouch when we were speeding along the coast, and got it out to take photos when we slowed down, but I wouldn't have any fears about taking my DSLR out in a sealable bag to get some better quality images - especially of the puffins!
We approached the Whaligoe Steps - a manmade harbour where fish would be collected from the boat and then carried up the 330 steps to continue their onward journey. Alongside the steps are two waterfalls. The one in the picture above is manmade, but as we coasted around closer to the falls, it's also possible to see a smaller natural waterfall on the left (below photo). Being so close to the cliffs is amazing, and the water was so clear.
Soon it was time to head back north along the Caithness coast to Wick, but we did see a few seals basking on rocks, and we made a couple of stops at Ellen's Geo (geo is an inlet) and Sarclet Harbour, both places which are on the list to explore on foot!
I can highly recommend Caithness Seacoast, I had a great trip out with them and won't be leaving it too long before my next trip! Contact them direct to book places from April-October and keep an eye on their Facebook page to be kept informed of special trips they run.
This is not a review or paid-for post - just enjoying the opportunity to be a local tourist as we settle into Caithness life! I took a 90-minute trip which costs £30 per person.