Saturday 23rd June – Day Twelve

Was a morning of mixed emotions – we had a long hard ride yesterday with a definite feeling of arrival as we came down the North Coast. That said it’s been an epic journey and I’m tired!

We left the Park Hotel in Thurso early and set of in light drizzle (hardly even call it that) to Dunnet Head.

Dunnet Head, also known as Easter head, is the most Northerly point of mainland Great Britain. It’s an RSPB sanctuary and has spectacular cliffs. There is a light house and yes James Hurrell is a child!

Then the signs to John O’Groats came thick and fast!

I didn’t want the end to come too soon so James and I went to see the Castle of Mey. Built from 1566 it was effectively a stately home which the queen mother bought in 1952 and restored.

James thought it a bit twee but I liked it.

Then is was just a few short miles to John O’Groats. I tried to be strong but felt very emotional running in to the final signpost.

John O’Groats is 690 miles from London, 280 miles from Edinburgh and 2,200 miles from the North Pole.  It has a population of 300.  The settlement takes its name from Jan de Groot, a Dutchman who once plied a ferry from the Scottish mainland to Orkney. People from John o’ Groats are known as

“Groaters”.

In 2005 Lonely Planet described John O’Groats as a

“seedy tourist trap”

and in 2010 got a Carbuncle Award from Urban realm magazine for being Scotlands most dismal town.  All seems a bit harsh to me.

In actual fact it has definitely improved and there are some attractive holiday homes, a boutique hotel and John O’Groats house looked in good nick.

John O’Groat’s House was an ancient house believed to be situated in front of the present hotel, deriving its name from John of Groat, or Groot, and his brothers, originally from Holland, said to have settled here about 1489.

The house was of an octagon shape, being one room, with eight windows and eight doors, to admit eight members of the family; the heads of different branches of it.  To prevent their quarrels for precedence at table each came in by his own door, and sat at an octagon table which of course had no chief place or head.

John O’Groats is not the most Northerly point or even the most North Easterly.  These are Dunnet Head and Duncansby Head respectively however it is the traditional end to our journey.  I’m told there used to be sand dunes however all the sand was removed during  the war and spread on the fields to improve the soil.

All we did was hug, pose for photos and congratulate each other. It’s been a superb ride – we have been exceptionally lucky with the weather, for the purposes of this blog I’m going to say no rain (torrential downpour in Wigan doesn’t count! That’s normal!) and no punctures. Great company and a great team all riding for different causes and reasons…such a wonderful experience!


Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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