Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Scotland by Rail Part 3 - John O'Groats is Inspiring

Scotland by Rail part 3, John O'Groats is inspiring, The Duncanby Stacks, Mandy Charlton Photographer

John O'Groats is Inspiring, that's actually a lie, John O'Groats is full of souvenir shops selling magnets and postcards but the area around John O'Groats is life affirmingly inspiring!

How to get to John O'Groats from Thurso

At the time of writing the bus timetables have recently changed to introduce more services, I got the number 80 bus at 8.30 from just next to Santander in Thurso, the coach sized bus navigates the tiny and often unmarked roads leading towards Wick and John O'Groats with skill.  It takes around an hour for the journey and may well be one of the prettiest bus trips I've been on and possibly the most remote too. The buses are maybe once every couple of hours so make sure you don't miss the one you want.   The bus drops you off at the John O'Groats bus stop which is next to a technicolour hotel and a craft and souvenir village, from the bus stop/car park,  it's just a few steps to the famous sign and as it was so early in the day, I didn't have to wait long for my photo.

Scotland by Rail part 3 - John O'Groats is inspiring, the famous sign by Mandy Charlton Photographer, writer blogger



The walk to the Duncansby Stacks

The best thing to do when you've had your photo is to avoid the souvenir shops (although I did buy a fridge magnet for posterity) and take a walk in an easterly direction to the Ducansby Head Lighthouse and the Duncansby Stacks.  It's about a 6-7km round trip and it's sorted of marked out in the way that the Scottish are like "ah well, you'll find it if you keep walking." Please say that in a Scottish accent and you'll know what I'm talking about.
John O'Groats is Inspiring, Sannick Bay near Duncansby  Head by Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Blogger


The walk itself takes you along the cliff tops of the very edge of Great Britain, any further you'll be in the sea, fascinatingly Shetland is still another 152 miles further north and one day it's a journey I need to go on.  On a clear day depending on when you're there you may spot Dolphins, Seals, and even Orcas (May/June is migration time) but today all I saw were sheep and seabirds.  Before you get to the lighthouse you'll also pass Sannick Bay, a white sandy beach with azure blue waters, I marvelled at the same kind of clear blue waters you get overseas, of course, not quite the same temperature as the Cote D'Azur.
John O'Groats is Inspiring, The Lighthouse at Duncansby Head, Mandy Charlton Photographer, blogger


The Duncansby Head Lighthouse is the true most northeasterly point of Great Britain although John O'Groats gets all of the credit (probably because the car park is bigger and the lighthouse is up a hill).  It's at this point when you reach the Lighthouse that you take a right and just keep walking the half-mile to see the 2 huge Duncansby Stacks rising from the North Sea, there a few things that take your breath away in life but seeing these for the first time is one of them.  It feels so otherworldly, so end of the earth, that this is the exact experience you imagine when you plan a trip to the very top of the map.  It's not the most challenging of walks though walking up the hilly road towards the lighthouse will burn a few calories and by the time I completed my return trip back to John O'Groats, I was in need of a cuppa and thanks to a cabin I managed to acquire a very reasonable coffee and some super cheap chips (for a tourist destination).

Scotland By Rail Part 3 - John O'Groats is inspiring, Duncansby Stacks, Caithness, Mandy Charlton Photographer



After I recovered I had a little time to kill as the next bus home wasn't until 1.40pm, (clearly they've been scheduled for half-day trips and really that's what you need if you want to factor in the walk) so I browsed the John O'Groats Brewery which isn't yet fully complete but I did manage to acquire a little bottle of local gin which I'm going to save for a special occasion.  



A Very Big Achievement


All in all, today for me felt like a big achievement, just to make it over 400 miles from home via rail and coach on my own when I sometimes can't even leave the house makes me feel like an invincible superhero.  I've been through a big period of transformation in these last few months and although I will always have anxiety, I'm really starting to feel so much more adventurous and like I have a whole new lease of life.  Sure, life is going to have its challenges still but I'm feeling pretty stable and ready for my next adventure.

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