Lybster (/ˈlɪbstər/, Scottish Gaelic: Liabost) is a village on the east coast of Caithness in northern Scotland.[1] It was once a big herring fishing port.

Lybster Harbour.jpg
Lybster is located in Caithness
Location within the Caithness area
OS grid referenceND250360
Civil parish
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLYBSTER
Postcode districtKW2, KW3
Dialling code01593
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
58°18′N 3°17′W / 58.30°N 3.28°W / 58.30; -3.28Coordinates: 58°18′N 3°17′W / 58.30°N 3.28°W / 58.30; -3.28

The Waterlines heritage museum is located in Lybster Harbour and provides information on the history and geology of Lybster. A small number of crab fishing boats also operate from Lybster Harbour.[2]

Lybster lies at the end of the tenth stage of the John o' Groats Trail, a long-distance walking trail from Inverness to John o' Groats.[3]


Lybster owes its origin to the fishing industry. A wooden pier was built in 1790 for use by the fishing boats. The village was founded in 1802 as a planned village by the local landowner, General Patrick Sinclair and his sons continued with its development. By 1859 some 357 boats operated from the harbour, making it the third busiest fishing port in Scotland, only exceeded by Wick and Fraserburgh. By this time there were some 1500 fishermen at sea, and other servicing the industry on land.[4] Lybster railway station was part of the Wick and Lybster Railway. It opened on 1 July 1903 and closed on 3 April 1944,[5] having been overtaken by events, the opening up of the road for traffic and the decline of the herring industry. A white-fish fleet operated from the port in the 1900s, but that dwindled too, and now the harbour is used by fishing boats catching lobsters and crabs, and recreational craft.[4]

Lybster was an important port in the herring industry in the nineteenth century.[6] In 1838, the population was said to be 1312, and there was a move to build a church there, because otherwise worshippers had to travel to either Latheron or Bruan, both about 5 mi (8 km) away.[7] Lybster declined in importance as a herring fishing port before the First World War as the local industry concentrated in Wick.

Value of Fish Landed in Lybster 1893–1914

It hosts the "World Championships of Knotty"; knotty or cnatag is a variant of shinty.[8]

The film, Silver Darlings, from Neil Gunn's book, was shot here. In 2019, Lybster was used as a location for shooting the Netflix drama, The Crown.[9]

The Sinclairs of Lybster have long roots running back to the Sinclair earls who ruled Caithness that was once a much larger area taking in much of Sutherland. Tracing further back the family has connections to the Norwegian earls who controlled the north of Scotland for centuries.[10]

Patrick SinclairEdit

Lybster's sister city is Mackinac Island, United States. One of the more famous of the clan was Patrick Sinclair. Today there is a pub on Mackinac Island that bears his name. Ironically it is an Irish pub.[11]



  1. ^ Gittings, Bruce; Munro, David. "Lybster". The Gazetteer for Scotland. School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh and The Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Undiscovered Scotland: Waterlines". Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Lybster to Whaligoe – The John o' Groats Trail". Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Undiscovered Scotland: Lybster". Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Drove First Train: Started Last". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Scotland. 3 April 1944. Retrieved 15 July 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  6. ^ Scotland. Fishery Board (1920). Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 108.
  7. ^ Two lectures, in reply to the Speeches of Dr. Chalmers, on Church Extension, delivered in Greyfriars Church, 18th and 23rd October, 1838 ... With notes and an appendix. 1839. p. 87.
  8. ^ Russell George (28 November 2014). Footsteps in Summer: Diary of an epic walk of discovery across Britain. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-78462-054-7.
  9. ^ "Lybster transformed for Netflix drama The Crown". JohnOGroat Journal. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  10. ^ Donn, Rob (1829). History of the House and Clan of Mackay: Containing...a Variety of Historical Notices, More Particularly of Those Relating to the Northern Division of Scotland During the Most Critical and Interesting Periods with a Genealogical Table of the Clan. Donn. p. 366.
  11. ^ Armour, David A. (1983). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 5. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 7 June 2019.

External linksEdit