|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|
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?”.