Auckengil to John O’Groats

We left you on the riverbank in Wick last time and from there we travelled up to Auckengil to stay with my friend Lisa who I went to university with. Lisa lives in a beautiful spot with horses, guinea pigs, rabbits and dogs. The track runs down from her house to the sea which has fabulous views and really unusual rock formations. After a quick hello we were keen to take a look.

We arrived at the end of the track and turned left to scramble down to the old herring port using stone steps which have been there for over a hundred years. Locals would clamber down to collect the herring before piling them on their head and climbing back up.  I can only imagine this was a bit of a challenge in old fashioned clogs or boots. The video was taken inside the old herring port and when it pans round you can see a steep green patch in the left corner – that’s the path!

The next morning we took another walk down to the cliff but turned right instead of left. We made our down over boulders and rocks until we were standing on some of the slab like formations. We weren’t the only ones out enjoying the morning, a group of seals were too. We did try to take some photos but they just looked like rocks.

This really is a lovely spot. and if you are doing the NC500 and are looking for somewhere to stay, Lisa has a glamping pod which is beautiful.  Glen Lodge The couple who were staying when we were there were blown away by the views and how lovely it was. We couldn’t agree more.

Like us, they probably didn’t want to leave but it was time to hit the road north for John O’Groats. Many years ago, I went to Lands End in Cornwall and was really disappointed. Not with the cliffs or landscape but because it was all so tacky. Amusements, shops full of plastic trinkets and I was a little worried that John O’Groats would be the same. And yes there are a few shops but it’s all far more tastefully done and not intrusive on the real reason for being there.

John O’Groats or Jan de Groot to give him his correct name was granted a charter by the Scottish King James IV to run a ferry from the mainland to Orkney in 1496. He charged 4p for this trip and the coin used to pay became known as a groat which was last minted in 1855.  A mound near the current John O’Groats hotel marks the place where he built his house.  His seven descendants quarrelled about precedence and Jan de Groot solved this problem by building an octagonal house with eight doors, one for each of his seven sons and himself, and an eight sided table so that no one occupied the head of the table.

Turning our back on the hotel and harbour, we walked along the coastal path in the direction of Duncansby Lighthouse and stopped on a beautiful beach to have tea and snacks. You imagine that when you stand on the edge of the coast up here you’ll see nothing but water and horizon but of course the Orkney’s are just a few miles away.  Orkney itself is so close many locals including my friend Lisa pop over for day trips. We’ll definitely come back and do that another time.

If you are going to visit John O’Groats, Duncansby Lighthouse and Stacks is a must. It’s less than a mile away and there is a good road all the way up. The lighthouse is fairly ordinary but the Stacks are really something else. A strange geological formation, not like anything I’ve seen before, they rise out of the water like witches hats and dominate the seascape.  There is something atmospheric, mesmerising and  powerful about them.

Following lunch in the van, it was time to leave this lovely spot. This time we were heading for the Kyle of Tongue. We’ll see you there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *