Robert Louis Stevenson’s Connection to Wick

Did you know that ‘Treasure Island‘ author Robert Louis Stevenson has a connection to Wick? If you’d like to find out more about his time here and the legacy his family built in Wick, then read on.

Mackays Hotel referenced in the treasure island in Wick lit up at night

Robert Louis Stevenson in Wick

To understand why the author of the gothic novel ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde‘ spent time around Wick, it’s important to understand that the Stevenson family wasn’t one renowned for writing. In fact, they were famous for being some of the finest lighthouse engineers and designers in the world.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather, Robert, built many lighthouses including the Bell Rock Lighthouse and the Cape Wrath. He had three sons, David, Alan and Thomas who were also all lighthouse engineers responsible for the likes of Chanonry Point, St. Abb’s Head and Butt of Lewis. David went on to have three sons and a grandson who – surprise – were all prominent lighthouse engineers.

Thomas, on the other hand, had a son who ended up going in a different career direction. This turned out well for us, as it resulted in the fantastic novel ‘Kidnapped’. However, it took Thomas a while to come to terms with Robert Louis Stevenson’s life choices and was disappointed that he didn’t become a lighthouse keeper too.

But what has any of this got to do with Wick?

Robert Louis Stevenson on a banknote

Wick lighthouse and breakwater

At one point, Robert Louis Stevenson spent some time in Wick. This was because his father Thomas, a renowned civil engineer, was designing a breakwater nearby. Not only that, but Noss Lighthouse nearby was designed by RL’s Uncle Alan. Unfortunately, the breakwater wasn’t a huge success, but that’s a story for another time.

Now, it’s time to be open and upfront with you, as we are with all our guests. Please remember, RL was in Wick in the 1880s, a time when life on the Scottish coast was tough and people were tougher. In a letter to his mother, he described our town as possessing “…no beauty: bare, grey shores, grim grey houses, grim grey sea.” Lucky for Wick that TripAdvisor wasn’t around then.

These days, Wick is a bustling, beautiful destination in the north of Scotland with arts festivals and stunning wildlife. We like to think that Mr. Stevenson of Edinburgh would have a much better time if he visited today!

Noss Head Lighthouse near Wick
Noss Head Lighthouse near Wick, designed by Alan Stevenson,

Follow in Robert Louis Stevenson’s footsteps at Mackays Hotel

Situated on Ebeneezer Place, the shortest street in the world, Mackays Hotel holds high standards and offers comfortable rooms. The hotel is built in the shape of a trapezoid and its narrower side is the entrance and the only address on the street. It’s a unique looking building – no wonder it has inspired authors!

Staying at Mackays Hotel means exploring the north of Scotland. It’s at the centre of Caithness and close to other attractions like the village of John O’Groats and the Castle of Old Wick. It’s a great place see some of the inspiration that led to Robert Louis Stevenson’s work, and to begin the search for your own treasure island!

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