John O’Groats to Castletown – 15 m

NEW : See my campaign to establish a National Coastal Path here

Its now 2007 and I have been eager to restart my coastal walk. I had bought a new motorhome which I was looking forward to using, however I am still waiting for a bike rack to be fitted to the back. After a long journey of 6 hours or so, John O’ Groats had the same run down unwelcoming and dejected feel to it. I imagine it must feel like a huge let down for all the people who have walked, cycled and on stilts. (I kid you not – I saw a guy on stilts heading south). Bless him, his mother must love him. Just along the road from John O’Groats is the small village of Gills – the locals obviously think that their offering is more attractive than down the road. Tourist turf wars have broken out.

Anyway, I didnt hang about long and got started heading west along the north coast of Scotland. The long journey to get to the start and the feel of remoteness up here can be intimidating. The memories of Caithness and Sutherland will be the yellow lichen you find on the roofs of the houses, and the walls made from Caithness slabs. The farmers dont bother with fences made of wood so much, they use the slabs of Caithness paving to make boundaries.

The first interesting place on the route is the Castle of Mey which is where the Queen Mother was born. Its a typical “Scottish looking” castle with usual turrets and stuff, and isn’t massive and imposing like some other castles, but is almost quaint looking. Further along the route was a cafe with ostriches kept in the garden in front. I’m not sure if they were for the tourists, or were there to be cooked at some later stage. Anyway I stopped to take some pictures. Ostriches are obviously a mistake; they are living proof that God doesn’t exist, (unless God was taking the piss, or was forced to make a creature up from all the left over bits from the other animals He created). The cafe was run by a pleasant enough woman of northern English extraction – you wouldn’t EVER get a Scots running an enterprise like this in Scotland; they are far less entrepreneurial than the English. Anyhow, the cafe had music playing in it that reminds me of a Tai Chi or “Get in touch with your inner self”soundtrack. Its the kind of music that wants to make me shout very loudly and let everyone know that Im a no-nonsense Glaswegian who doesn’t make do with all this wish-washy, bindy badjii, new age pish. However I didn’t do that – I merely sipped my tea from the tiny china tea cup and smiled benevolently at the other couple in the shop.

I eventually got to Dunnet Head which is actually the most northerly point on the UK mainland. It has a big lighthouse and during the night a big gale brewed up and Wham! it suddenly hit the van with a force of at least 250 miles per hour. It felt like that anyway. The rain was horizontal and the van was rocking back and to on it’s axles. Its at time like these, that I really wonder what the hell I’m playing at, and asking myself what I’m doing. I was mentally trying to work out how far the cliff edge was and which way I would be facing if the wind blew the van over. In the end I got up at 2.30 in the morning and drove the van down the hill cos of the noise of the wind was making it impossible to sleep. After I got into the lee of the hill, I slept like a baby.

Distance Travelled 15 miles

See Map of this section and more Photos


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