JOHN O GROATS
My first night back on the mainland was spend at Dunster Bay – I had passed the campsite on my way to Orkney but as it was out of season all the signs were down, and though I stopped to look at Dunster Bay from their carpark I hadn’t realised that it was actually a Caravan Club campsite. I wanted to stop there as I would be able to empty the tanks and take on fresh water. I had to ask again for help lifting the manhole cover - I had some manhole cover lifters on order plus a much better pipe for the outlet which, hopefully, were waiting for me at Inver.
Misty morning view from Thebus window
Dunnet Bay Campsite
As I missed out John O Groats on my way north I decided to visit, and at the same time call in to the Tourist Information point to ask about places of interest in the area. John O Groats is obviously something not to be missed out of a trip round Scotland, and of course one needs to have a photo of the John O Groats signpost.
Having taken said photo and had a mooch about the harbour I took the opportunity of a bit of retail therapy – my bad walking precludes me from shopping in shops nowadays, so to 'try before you buy' was a real treat, They even had a sale of last season's colours, and as anything purchased within the last twenty or even more years is regularly pressed into service with me I soon managed to find a nice light showerproof summer jacket with an integral hood which I judged would give me suitable midge protection now I am heading towards the Western Highlands and May and June are approaching.
It was a really nice shop which has been converted from the old John O Groats museum – in fact that was what had drawn me in that direction – I thought it still was the Museum. The floors and beams had been stripped back and polished, the old stone walls uncovered, and a clear flame log burner roared away to heat us up. But whilst inside I could see through the windows yet another John O Groats signpost. Walking around the site I had half noticed a hand written sign mentioning something about the original signpost which had been 'there for fifty nine years'
Apparently there is some sort of dispute between the rights of photographing the signpost - it used to cost nine pounds to have your photo taken with the old sign. But the new owners of the site have put up a replacement signpost which anyone can now photograph to their hearts content and free of charge.
Wearing my new jacket I meandered in the general direction of the 'original' signpost, which one could easily have photographed from outside the roped off area, and that might have been my secret intention. But as I approached a guy instantly appeared from his hut.
I was rather reminded of when I was a child – in one of our outdoor sheds each year there was a large strong web, with a funnelled bit at the back. If you got a piece of straw and just tickled it on the edge of the web for a few seconds......... suddenly...... out would rush a huge, hairy legged spider, which would inspect the piece of trapped straw, of course by now you would have dropped this in shrieking alarm. Finding nothing to trap and suck dry the spider would then scuttle back to its lair. I am not implying this chap had eight hairy legs, but there was something of the same look about his eyes. Anyway I was informed that I was allowed to take my own photo free of charge, just make a donation to the Charity Bucket, which I was happy to do as no one minds donating to a worthy cause.
John O Groats Old Signpost
By the way it wasn't 22nd April, so presumably no-one had paid since then
On my way back towards Thebus a cyclist arrived - one of the intrepid Land's End to John O Groaters. He was looking to sign the book they have there, and when he had signed in looked a bit flat at first, saying it somehow felt like an anticlimax now it was done, but I said I thought it was the quality of the journey that counted, and after a beefburger and a hot drink he bounced back a bit, though he then had to cycle back to Wick to catch the train home. I did offer him and his bike a lift in Thebus as we were going that way, but I think he was determined to finish what he had started, but what an achievement especially alone, and without a support team or car to back him up.
Lands End to John O Groats Cyclist
There was a fair bit of walking involved in John O Groats plus I was already a bit achy from the last few days, otherwise I might had gone to Duncansby Head, but I decided to give that a miss and headed on down to Wick. On my travels I had passed the entrance to Glamis Castle but apparently they now let it out to wealthy Arab tourists until the beginning of May, at least that is what the local gossip is.
The helpful girl at Tourist Information at John O Groats had recommended Giringoe Castle and also told me how to find it, plus how to find the Whaligoe Steps, not easy as the council has decided these sorts of places are too dangerous to encourage tourists to visit, and have removed all the signs. Also they are not properly marked on the tourist maps, so I ended up in a council estate, but they must get lots of folk as the first person I asked said – Are you looking for a castle?
When we arrived there were two rather impressive looking neighbours already ensconced, and though they looked calm I could see no cows with them, plus the fence between them and us looked rather insubstantial. When I was a child one of the local bulls just broke through a fence made of old telegraph poles simply because he fancied a walk, so though I let Phoebe out for a quick widdle I made sure she stayed on the leeward side of Thebus and got her straight back inside. In my experience cattle and dogs don't mix.
As it was slightly foggy and trying to rain, I thought I would wait till morning to view the ruins of the castle, and where we were looked a good enough spot to park up. We did seem to get a few late night visitors up there but they were no trouble to us.
Large Strong Bulls behind small weak fence