Walk Day 72 – Watten to John O’Groats

Day 72 – June 23 Watten to John O‘Groats
 Weather: Sun and Cloud  B&B: Seaview Hotel (£40)
 Departed: 8:55 Arrived: 15:30  Walked: 5h 25m Rested: 1 hr 00m
 Distance Today: 18.6 mi / 29.93 km  Total Distance: 1172.8 mi / 1887.44 km
 % Complete: 100%  Pint of the Day: Tennants Ember Ale
 GPS Track for: Day 72

Ok, so now what do I do?

Good thing I’m not a meteorologist because when I looked out the window this morning the fog was nowhere to be seen. The locals didn’t do much better because they were predicting rain and there was only broken high cloud.

Mrs McKenzie served up one of the largest Scottish breakfasts of the journey and it was hearty enough to keep me going for nearly 12 hours. I was off on the final day of my walk before 9:00 and walked through the village and past Loch Watten. The Loch is a popular fishing spot and there were a number of fisherman getting ready to try their luck.

Early on the sun was out and it warmed up very quickly as I tacked north on a series of B-roads. It took just under two hours to reach a dead straight minor road that I would follow for the next 8 miles. The visibility was superb and I had excellent views in all directions. The road rose and fell like waves heading towards the coast as it passed through the tiny farming communities of Lyth, Alterwall and finally Upper Gills. I passed the time by checking out the wide variety of wildflowers that lined the fields and by gauging my progress using a radio mast that appeared on the horizon.

Eventually I crested the hill immediately in front of the tower and came face to face with the coast. It was a dramatic sight and it caught me completely by surprise. The coastline was dotted with villages and the Orkneys dominated the horizon. The now uninhabited island of Stroma was so close that I could clearly make out the abandoned buildings. I made my way down to a junction with another minor road that I followed all the way to Canisbay .

I carried on down to the junction with the A836 however I decided to take a slightly longer route that would link up with the A99 on the coast. Once I made the turn north onto the A99 I was on the home stretch.

The community of John O’Groats lines the A99 over quite a distance and there is no village center as such. However my objective was the signpost near the harbour and the now defunct John O’Groats House Hotel. I passed the Post Office and the Seaview Hotel near the junction with the road to Duncansby Head, and then finally, after 72 days and 1172 miles, a signpost that looked remarkably similar to the one in Land’s End came into view. There were quite a few people milling around (for a Wednesday afternoon) but the sign was all mine and so I put an end to my walk with a hand to the post.

To be honest it’s all quite anti-climatic and I suspect it will take several days to sink in. After the obligatory photo shoot I had a quick look around and signed the “End to End” book at the local café. As I was doing so Ian walked in and he bought me a drink and we had a good chat. He asked me what the highlights were and although I provided a brief list I think I will have to give this one some more thought.

After our chat I sorted out my ferry tickets for Orkney and checked in to the Seaview Hotel. As I was doing so the skies opened up and there was a brief but very strong shower. I didn’t hang about my room for long because I wanted to walk to Duncansby Head before dinner and so as soon as the rain stopped I was back on the road for the two mile walk to the Lighthouse and cliffs.

The road passed through a collection of houses that makes up the community of Duncansby and then zigzagged its way up to the lighthouse. Once on top there were fantastic views north to the Orkneys and south to the Stacks of Duncansby. However the real highlight was the walk along the cliff tops and the thousands of birds that call them home. I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it. There was narrow but very deep cleft in the cliff where the birds nested in massive numbers and the din was amplified by the cavern like opening. I did spot one Puffin on the cliff face but couldn’t identify the others … where is John Parsons when you need him?! I followed the cliff path down, almost to its end and then cut back across a rough pasture to the road and then back to the Seaview Hotel.

And so this brings to an end my latest adventure and I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed following along. This will be my last daily blog entry although I will continue to add photos to my gallery every now and then. I also plan to post some statistics and closing thoughts (once I’ve had a chance to form them). In the meantime you can break in those new boots and begin planning your own LEJOG!

Before I sign off I’d like to thank all of the people I met (you know who you are) and walked with over the past 11 weeks … it was a pleasure sharing at least part of my journey with you. And a special thank you to Brian Cowling who kept me supplied in maps, and without whom I might be wandering around Kent right now, scratching my head and thinking “this doesn’t look right?”.



51 thoughts on “Walk Day 72 – Watten to John O’Groats

  1. Steve

    Well done, its a great feeling isn’t it.

    Still trying to answer that question myself, what to do next and after 19 days still haven’t managed to

    Have a brill night drinking to your sucess, god you’ve had enough practise during the walk. Question is will it be the best pint? You certainly deserve it


    • Thanks Russell. As soon as I set foot on Orkney I could see this would be a fantastic place to walk (unless of course the winds are blowing as hard as they are right now). Congrats again on your LEJOG and keep in touch. Cheers, Steve.

      • Send them to my work e-mail 🙂 can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your adventure, made my day… Lorraine likes the LEJOG idea, we’ll need to do a lot of training…..

  2. Great job, Steve.
    Every day I was waiting with excited anticipation for your blog e-mail…and now…back to my humdrum life…

    Best of luck with the rest of your trip.

    See you when you get back.

    • Hey Bob … thanks very much. I’m impressed and flattered that a retired gentlemen as busy as yourself found the time to follow my daily ramblings.

      I’m not sure where Greece is on your travel list these days but if I were you I’d start planning a trip to Orkney. From my b&b I can see the 12th century St. Magnus Cathedral and the significant ruins of the Bishops and Earl’s Palaces. When I saw them I thought of you … crumblies Bob, crumblies!! Cheers, Steve.

  3. Hi Steve,
    Must be honest living inland when i found a cliff of sea birds my limited knowledge became very apparent.
    Never the less it would have been a real pleasure to be there and congratulate you.

    Glad you mentioned the length of straight roads there which were a suprise (the one from Thurso to Castletown was just as it looks on the map), also the closeness of the islands those ruined buildings are well clear to see.

    As for after thoughts i think there are quite a few of use trying to decide on those, maybe if you declare a Jogle next year several will start planning. (just and idea).

    This has sure been a year (and we are only half way through it).
    Cheers J.P.

    • Thanks J.P. and congrats again on completing your LEJOG. I’m convinced I saw a puffin on those cliffs but I’m hoping I might see a few more while I’m on Orkney. I’m not sure about a JOGLE … then again I have all the maps I need! 🙂 Cheers, Steve.

  4. Hey Steve,
    Congratulations on the successful completion of your project!

    I have a couple of RIP issues that I want you to look at…
    Naaa! Just kidding.

    You have some great pics and I have enjoyed keeping track of your progress. What a way to really see the country.

    Have a great rest of your trip!

    • Hey Terry,

      Thanks very much and I’m glad you enjoyed following my blog. I was just thinking the other day that it’s been ages since I migrated anything, other than myself of course (and I never needed to ping GH once!). Thanks again, Steve.

  5. Hi steve,

    a big congrats and well done!!!

    Looking forward to when you are back and you can tell me more about your trip.
    Enjoy the rest of your ‘holiday’ ( I guess it is a holiday now), you deserve it.

    PS Glad you you made it all the way to Duncansby Head! Looking forward to seeing a picture of you in front of the lighthouse.

    PPS don’t forget my sheep 🙂

    • Hi Brent … thanks very much and I look forward to telling you all about it. I figure it will take me a few weeks to get my head around that CAVS application I support (I think that’s what its called?) and so a nice long trip chat will help ease me back. 🙂

      Picture of me in front of the lighthouse? Damn … does that mean I have to go back?


      PS. Your ewe has been posted to your home address because I’m too cheap to pay for a second piece of checked baggage.

  6. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment. Hope you get some good meals into you, it looks like you’ve lost a few stones!

    Love ya

    • Thanks Kim … but I’m afraid I’m not that thin. It might have had something to do with the Real Ale? Did my nephews follow along? If not I will produce a “first person walker” version of my LEJOG that will run on a Playstation 2 and Xbox, or better yet a Wii version. I expect them to entertain me in my advanced years with tales of their own hair-brained adventures so start them off on 10-mile walks and we’ll go from there! Love, Bro.

  7. Hi Brent. You’re a bonehead.

    Hi Steve. You rock! Congratulations on completing your long journey. You must be very proud of yourself. Which feels better… completing LeJog or completing CVSA? (Some Aussie is probably reading this right now thinking CVSA is a trans-Canada walk.)

    We’re all following your journey here at the office and very happy to learn that you made it. Enjoy the rest of your time in Europe!

    • Hi Randy,

      Thanks very much! I can’t remember what CVSA is but I”m sure I enjoyed completing it 🙂 I’m glad everyone followed along and I’m intrigued to see this map that Dr. Godfrey has created and maintained (with the assistance of Brent of course).

      I’m sure you will have noticed that I completed my assignment on time and on budget, including the extra 2 miles (each way) to Duncansby Head. Can I add this to my Performance Plan and Review?

      Thanks again,

  8. Congrats, Steve. Well done! I’ve been following your adventure for about a month now. I am planning to follow in (most) of your footsteps starting next May 18th. You’ve been an inspiration and a great resource.
    –Jack Frost
    AT class of ’08

    • Hi Jack … thanks very much. I’m very glad if I’ve been able to inspire you in any way. It was a fantastic experience and well worth the effort it took to plan it. If you blog please pass along the address so that I can follow along next May. Thanks again, Steve.

  9. Congratulations on a LEJOG well done! Enjoyed your daily up-beat blog. Relax and bask in the joy of your accomplishment.
    Kind rgds., Chris W.

    • Thanks very much Chris and congrats on your 2000+ kms walk around the coastline of England and Wales! I really enjoyed following your blog. Thanks again, Steve.

  10. Well done Steve!
    Takes some getting used too!?
    Alfie of course took it in his stride!

    Quite some walk but worth it for the end view, sat at the campsite for hours just staring out over Duncansby bay watching the sun set over the Orkneys and passing trawlers.

    Home now and the start of a whole new adventure as we step into the future!
    No idea where this going to lead us but that just makes it more fun!

    Andy n Alfie

    • Hi Andy ‘n Alfie,

      Thanks very much. As fantastic as it was I know the experience will get even better with time. Alfie is a star and if I was chatting with anyone about fellow LEJOGers all I had to do was mention his name and they knew immediately who I was talking about.

      I wish you all the best on your new adventure. One question: when Alfie hears “walkies” now what are his expectations?


  11. Hi Steve,

    Many congratulations from another of your dedicated followers. I have done most of it from a desk in Central London, so I will miss my daily escape to the lenght of our country.

    I still hanker after doing it myself one day, but I doubt I could capture or match your fantastic running (or should I more correctly say walking) commentary!!

    I invariably used to reflect on how far I had walked on long distance paths, by seeing how long it took to get back to my abandoned car at the start. Have you ever thought of JOGLE….

    Hope you have a safe trip back home.


    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks very much. I’m glad you enjoyed following along and I can empathize because I did the same from my cubicle last year (on my lunch break of course). You’re the second person to mention a JOGLE! I’m not so sure about a JOGLE but no doubt there will be another adventure in the works in the not too distant future (I’m afraid I’m a repeat offender in this regard).

      If you’re thinking of doing this walk yourself I encourage you to give it a go. I thought about it for a year or two before committing to it and in the end I figured it’s not going to get any easier the longer I wait.

      Thanks again and all the best, Steve.

  12. Hi Steve,

    I would just like to add my congratulations to the 1000’s already, but what a journey and a treat to pass away the last 3 months which went so quick. It seems almost sad that your blog is at an end but I wish you all the very best for the future and your new adventures what ever they may be.

    • Hi Andy … thanks very much. One of the great things about walking for nearly 3 months is that time slows down. I know the old saying is “time flies when you’re having fun” but for me time passed happily at 3 miles per hour. Thanks again! Cheers, Steve.

  13. Good Onya Steve!

    That was one intense stroll, and your blog made it feel like I was there. (And I did get awfully thirsty with every update!).

    Maybe your next sojourn will be the infamous PNP2CS??
    (Point No Point to Cape Scott).

    Enjoy your wee rest, you deserve it!

    • Hey Scott,
      Thanks very much! You know that Cape Scott walk is the one we always talked about and the one I never did. I met a Canadian over here who did the new Cape Scott to Port Hardy walk that opened last year. He said it was pretty tough going as the trail is still under construction in some places. Janice and I made it to San Josef Bay a couple of years ago and we walked along the trail that branched off to Cape Scott but that’s as close as I’ve got. Thanks again and I’ll drop you an email over the coming days.


  14. Congratulations, Steve. It was great following your blog, looking at the photos and living vicariously through you. Enjoy the remainder of your time in Europe and we will see you when you get back to Victoria.

    Well done!


    • Thanks Janice! I look forward to seeing you when I get back. How’s the “coast to coast” planning going? Cheers, Steve.

  15. Congrats, Steve. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your blog and will miss your daily journey. I hope you enjoy your vacation even though this one will include trains, planes and automobiles.

    • Thanks Val! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m enjoying the concept of moving while sitting down 🙂

      I have to add “boats” to that list because I was on one today. It looked like it had some close scrapes (quite literally) but it got us safely to the islands. The strategically placed buckets on the floor of the passenger seating area would seem to imply that the crossing occasionally gets rough (but not today). Thanks again, Steve.

  16. To add to all the others, Congratulations. Will miss your daily blog and fantastic photos. Look forward to your next one!!
    I keep reading these blogs and one day maybe I will give it a go (But at 50 something and overweight it will take some doing)

    Once again Well done!


    • Thanks Carol … I hope you do give it a go. There are a lot of 60+ End-to_Enders out there so don’t let age stop you! Cheers, Steve

  17. Congratuations, Steve.

    And I think the black and white birds were probably murres.

    I’ve seen them on similar cliff faces in some pretty wild places on the Pacific coast.


    • Thanks Maureen … there were certainly a lot of “murres”. No puffins yet on Orkney yet but from what the locals have told me I’d need to go to the northern Islands … a perfect excuse to return. Cheers, Steve.

  18. Hi Steve,
    Congratulations. You completed your project !
    Well done.

    I hope you will find anaother goal or challenge in some time.
    But first you will spend some time in Europe. Amsterdam and France you told us.
    So, in Amsterdam you will find another atmosphere. Not only busy traffic but also less friendly people (comparing to Scotland) who are always in a hurry.
    You must go to Broek in Waterland or Holysloot. Small places about one hour out of the center of Amsterdam. There you can hire a bike or a boat. Nice area, nature, open space. You and your girlfriend can take there the rest you deserved.

    It was nice meeting you in Scotland and we enjoyed your daily report of your trip.
    We wish you all the best !

    Cheers, Lucie & Bert

    • Hi Lucie & Bert … thanks very much for the tip … we will certainly look into this when we are in Amsterdam. It was great meeting you on the WHW and I look forward to hearing from you again. Cheers, Steve.

    • Thanks Daryl! My little Panasonic Lumix was a real trooper. I dropped it once and then it spent all 1172 miles sitting in my hip belt without a case. It survived the change in temperatures, moisture and a lot of bumps and bruises. I’ve taken almost 2500 photos so far. Cheers, Steve.

  19. Alfie’s grandparents!

    Keep up the blogs we love the record of your observations. So many people look but do not see.

    Where are you going next?

    • Hi Peter & Gloria,
      Thanks for the post and I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. I’ll try to post something now and then although I don’t have any walks, or even trips, planned for the immediate future. That said I’m pretty sure I have another long walk in me so stay tuned!

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