Not The Most North, Not The Most East, Why John O'Groats?


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Published: April 9th 2015
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John O'GroatsJohn O'GroatsJohn O'Groats

The well known sign at John O'Groats.
I got up early and went back to Urquhart Castle for the sunrise to try and get some photographs. As the castle is not openly accessible, there were only limited points where I could get a decent view of the castle and the loch. There was a thick mist hanging over the loch, which would hopefully made for some dramatic pictures, although not what I was expecting.

As we were so close, decided to go to John O'Groats. I say "close", but it was still well over 100 miles from Inverness to John O'Groats and the roads are not exactly motorway standard. We thought we would go straight there with no stops and then stop-off at other places on the way back. It took about two and a half hoursto get there.

The first thing that strikes you as you approach John O'Groats is how bleak and baron it is up there. There are literally no trees. Our guidebook said that it is a complete tourist trap, but we were really surprised at how small and quiet it was. We haven't been to Lands End yet, but we have been to Cornwall and believe me, in comparison John O'Groats
Duncansby StacksDuncansby StacksDuncansby Stacks

The Duncansby Stacks.
is not a tourist trap - at least not in April.

We had the obligatory picture by the sign, posted from postcards so that they would have the John O'Groats postmark on them and then enjoyed the view across to the Orkney Islands which are close by. Then we headed a couple of miles to the nearby Duncansby Head, which is actually the most north easterly point of the UK mainland.

We walked along the cliffs, including around an inlet which has become a shelter for all the birds. The noise was unbelievable. There were a lot of puffins there, but sadly they seemed to settle at the bottom of the cliffs, whist it is the less photogenic gulls that occupy the top of the cliffs near where we were walking. About a ten minute walk from the head are the Duncansby Stacks, which very closely resemble the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Australia.

When walking back to the car park it was shocking how early it is to lose your bearings, given the complete lack of vegetation and any other navigable landmarks. We found the car safely however and then headed to Dunnet
Duncansby HeadDuncansby HeadDuncansby Head

The lighthouse at Duncansby Head.
Head. This is actually the most northerly point of the UK mainland. I really don't know why John O'Groats is the place to go, as both Dunnet Head and Duncansby Head have a much stronger case.

On the long drive back to Inverness, we stopped off at the village of Helmsdale, with a small harbour, and at Dunrobin Castle. It was getting late by that point and we had all the grounds of the castle to ourselves to walk round the ornate gardens, which will probably look stunning in the summer.


Additional photos below
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Dunnet HeadDunnet Head
Dunnet Head

The north most point of the UK mainland.
Dunrobin CastleDunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle

The gardens and Dunrobin Castle.
Urquhart CastleUrquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle

Sunrise over Urquhart Castle and the mist over Loch Ness.


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