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Issue 66 - Northern soul (Old Pulteney)

Whisky Magazine Issue 66
September 2007


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Northern soul (Old Pulteney)

Pulteney takes some getting to but there's plenty to fall in love with if you make the effort. Dominic Roskrow reports

Welcome to the Badlands. The wild North. So far North in fact that you to get here you have to out-Highland the Highlands, passing along a breath-taking route with mountainous beauty to your left, coastal beauty to your right until the land flattens once more and you cross Scotland's equivalent of the Prairies.

By the time you start to approach Wick the relative civilisation of Inverness seems a long way away. Tight-knit and remote, Wick feels like an island.

Its houses hug the harbour area and shoreline. It has the sort of atmosphere you find in so many ports and harbours round Britain, the damp odour of curdled prosperity. You feel straightaway that the fair moved out of town long ago, and ripped the community's heart out at the same time.

Once this was the biggest fishing port in Europe. During the boom years of 1860 to 1890 1000 fishing boats were based here to fish the herring. So busy was it that they say you could walk from one side of the large harbour to the other just by crossing over the boats.

More than 13,000 barrels of salted herring were shipped out from here, and 12,000 fishermen and land workers linked to the trade were based here. There were an astonishing 300 coopers working here, and 1000 men were employed on larger boats bringing the salt to the town.

It has its links with famous names of Scottish history, too. Wick itself is actually two towns, Wick itself to the North and Pulteney town, built to provide cheap accommodation for the thousands of immi...

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