The name Wick derives from the Norse "vik" meaning bay and emphasises the Viking past of the area. Its proximity to Europe led to its elevation to royal burgh status (1589), in preference to Thurso, and its exclusive right to trade abroad. However, it did not really develop until 1803 when Thomas Telford began his work on the harbour and on a new town to the south of Wick. This new development was named Pulteneytown and was governed by a separate council until 1902, when it was incorporated into the royal burgh. The Temperance Act of 1913 allowed communities to vote themselves 'dry' and Wick did so in 1922. Its public houses remained closed until this situation was reversed in 1945.
A market town for the local area, Wick was also an important herring fishing port. With the decline in herring, employment has been established in light industries and with the foundation of the Caithness Glass Factory in 1961 by Robin Sinclair, Lord Thurso. The company went into receivership in 2003 and the Wick factory closed.
Ebenezer Place in Wick is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the shortest street in the world. Other places of interest include the Wick Heritage Museum, with its blacksmith's shop and curing yard with kipper kiln and cooperage, the ruins of Castle Oliphant which date back to the 14th Century, the remnants of Bucholly Castle which dates back to the Viking invaders, and the Wick Gala Week which occurs in the last week of July. Tourist will also find a golf course, tennis courts and sea, loch and river fishing.
Wick is well served by road and rail links, and also by an airport, situated 2 miles (3 km) north of the town, with flights to all of Scotland's major cities.