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Caithness Photos A collection of images from Scotland's northernmost mainland county

Lybster Harbour

Lybster Harbour

In 1815 Lybster fell under the control of the British Fisheries Society due to the explosion of fishing in the area. It wasn’t until 1829 that the harbour, sort of similar to how it looks today, was to be planned and built. The project was financed by Lybster Estate’s owner at the time, Captain Temple F. Sinclair, and was designed to accommodate around 100 boats and had estimated build cost of £7000.

By 1845 there were 283 boats fishing in the Lybster area during the Herring boom, and Lybster was, for a time, host to the third largest fishing fleet in Scotland.

Like most harbours, Lybster saw its fair share of tragedy during the herring boom, and on the 22nd of November 1847 a storm struck the fleet at sea. Only a single boat was lost, but seven men drowned, five women became widows and twenty children became fatherless.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Lybster, during its peak, employed 1469 fishermen, 111 coopers, 734 gutters, 886 labourers and net makers and around 1959 Lybster was home to a staggering 357 boats! The place must have been buzzing!

In 1877, after years of storm damage to the harbour, a Government Commission found the following:

“Lybster Harbour is in constant danger of being totally destroyed and with it the means if subsistence of nearly the whole population of the place, who are almost entirely dependant upon the fisheries.”

Around 1880 the Duke of Portland, the new owner of Lybster Estate took it upon himself to conduct repairs on the rather beaten up harbour. He budgeted a maximum of £6000 for the job, and by 1884 the harbour had new and improved wall and the lighthouse you see above was in place.

By 1900 the best days of the herring boom at Lybster were coming to an end, along with the herring population itself, but this didn’t spell the end of development at Lybster Harbour. Surprisingly, the inner harbour was completed in the not too dim and distant past – 1950 to be exact!

The harbour still hosts some fishing boats, and if you go for a look around be sure to go into the Waterlines exhibition. It gives some insight into the history (both natural and fishing) of the area, and is well worth a look.

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