2021

Day 51 – Orkney bound

Keiss to John O’Groats, 22Km then ferry to Orkney

Another exhilarating clifftop walk today brought me to the end of the John O’Groats trail. The fog disappeared overnight so the visibility was good. I’ve now taken hundreds of photos of the wild Caithness coastline and this morning I made a short 40 second video walking along the cliff top path. It was just a normal clip which I made as I walked but it gives a fair impression of the experience. To be honest, it looks worse than it was but if you suffer from vertigo it might be better not to watch it.

The trail took me past so many ruined castles that it made me wonder what life was like when they were all thriving. Imagine the parties! I reached Freswick Bay and sat on the beach with coffee from my flask and a biscuit. There was no one around because the main A9 road has disappeared inland so the only way to see this coastline is to walk up it.

Freswick Bay seemed endless but once I cleared it, I made fast progress around Skirza Head, Skippie Geo, Salt Skerry and the Wife & Fast Geos. Then it was up and over the Hill of Crogodale, past the impressive Stacks of Duncansby, Thirle Door, The Knee, the Geo of Sclaites and Duncansby Head which is the very north eastern corner of Britain. There is a lighthouse and a car park here, the cliffs now have fences and there are people wandering around. And then it was downhill to John O’Groats, the horrible tourist haven which many people believe to be the end of the world.

Gary dropped my bag in the ferry office. There was just one other passenger on board for the crossing to Orkney. My plan is to walk the six stages of the St Magnus pilgrimage over the coming week from my base in Dounby. I haven’t really progressed the plan at all. I thought I would just take a taxi to the start of each stage and arrange a pickup. But this is Orkney and nothing here is normal. I’m too tired to think about it because I was awake until midnight watching the tennis. I’ve ordered a full-ish Scottish breakfast for the morning and will make a plan afterwards.

More dramatic Caithness coastline photos
Yet another ruined castle perched on the cliffs
The trail
The Stacks of Duncansby at the north east end of Britain
The end of the JoG trail, rather bizarre

17 comments on “Day 51 – Orkney bound

  1. Well done Tim, an amazing achievement yet again. Puts young Emma’s efforts yesterday to shame. I hope you find Orkney even more varied and interesting. Why they built castles on cliff edges I can’t imagine, unless they hoped their rivals would stagger out of the back door after one dram too many…

    • I remember the day you went to Wimbledon, Emma was playing to a half full Court 12. I watched it on TV. What a talent!

  2. Philippa

    Great video! I’m very impressed with your speedy progress along the cliff edge; I’d be clinging to the fence & moving very cautiously … looking forward to learning about Orkney :).

  3. Epic tennis!!!! well worth the late night and historical moment for several milestones. The cliffs are incredible.

    • Truly epic tennis. I love going to Wimbledon. It’s great to have a British female star again. She speaks fluent Mandarin too. Worldwide marketing opportunities

  4. Tassie Kaz

    Congratulations on another ‘Big Box Tick’ ✔ Tim!
    I hope you appreciate how lucky you are, little annoyances & all, to be able to move around so freely. With so many still in lockdown or heavily restricted (incl millions of Australians who can’t venture further than 5km from home, much less cross borders!), your journey has truly been a blessing.
    So glad to have been able (& will continue) to follow along. Thanks for sharing. 🙏 🤗

    • I know and I hope we get out of this lockdown cycle. Final week on the road for me. I’m looking forward to a little lockdown when I get home!

  5. Tassie Kaz

    PS. I should have said ‘I know you appreciate…’ not ‘I hope…’ 😇

  6. Wow Tim well done, those cliff edges do look quite scary.

    • Hi Gail, those cliffs have a habit of collapsing which adds to the charm.

  7. Well done Tim, wonderful walking!!

  8. Roger Clarkson

    No place for millennials taking selfies. Well done getting to ‘The end of the world’.

    • Thanks and it’s even more dangerous when oldies try to take selfies. It seems like only yesterday when we were at JoG doing the NC500. But we were the only ones on it back in 1984

  9. Lizzie

    Just catching up on your posts Tim! So pleased you’ve made it to Orkney in one piece. Lovely photos as always. Amazing to think I’ve been home a while now and you’ve been walking the whole time! Hope you’re keeping well.

    • Hi Lizzie great to hear from you. It seems like a long time but I’m fortunate to have time and feet to do it. Orkney was as special as I was expecting and I plan to return. I’m in Inverness and get home tomorrow assuming I don’t oversleep and miss the train. The hotel is next to the station so I don’t have far to go.

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