John O’Groats – off to Britain’s far north

After wonderful days in Aberdeen, me and my bike boarded the train to Thurso, a tranquil little town at the Scottish northern coast.

I used Thurso as base to cycle to John O’Groats, the official starting point for my tour through Scotland. John O’Groats is mostly famed for forming the starting or ending point for the popular End2End tours among walkers or cyclists. It marks the longest possible journey between Britain’s mainland most extreme points: Land’s End, the most southwestern tip and John O’Groats in the northeast.

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I followed A836, the coastal road or better known nowadays as North Coast 500, to the east. On my left jaw-drapping views over wild sandstone cliffs, gorgeous beaches, and always clearly in sight, the rough shaped outlines of the Orkneys. On my other side, true highland sceneray: rolling moorland, overgrown with heather, crossed by the inevitable line of telegraphic poles stretching until the horizon.

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I took a quick detour to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Britain. On a sunny and bright day like this, the views were simply superb. I could see along the coast all the way to the west to Cape Wrath. The cliffs are rich in birdlife and I managed to watch puffins at a close range for the first time. Their clumsy movements are too adorable. I even saw some of the rare arctic skuas gliding along the cliffs, their grey coat setting them easily apart from all the white feathered gulls.

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As I continued east to John O’Groats, I battled the wind, as its direction had changed, and I had to go against it for the last 15 km. Finally, I had made it to JOG and arrived at the white pole, counterpart to the one standing about 1400 km away in Land’s End. This one, however, could be accessed freely and I queued for having the inevitable picture taken.

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I completed the remaining 4 km to Duncancsby Head, the true most northeastern tip. A beautiful short walk along the high bluff amist a flock of grazing sheep led me to the Stacks of Duncansby. The formidable rock stacks rise just a few meters off the coast out of the sea. Waves are breaking at the foot of their cliffs, and countless birds are circling the sharp ridges, their never ending cries only broken by the sound of the breaking waves. A peaceful and beautiful sight, especially in the evening sun.

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