My original plan for the day was to go to John o’Groats, which is about an hour away by bus. However, I was reliably informed by my kind host that there really isn’t a lot there apart from a pub. As it’s not tourist season, the famed signpost is stripped bare. They usually charge for you to have your picture taken there so when there’s nobody there to take your money they make it not worth your while!
Instead, I checked locally and found that I was very close to Dunnet Head – the northernmost point on mainland Britain. Seeing as I’ve already done the easternmost point in Australia and the southernmost point in continental Asia, this seemed like another one to add to the “collection”.
Getting there is pretty easy. There’s a regular bus (about every 2 hours) from right outside the train station in Thurso. It’s the number 80 and a return to Dunnet Corner is Â£3.20. The bus driver was really helpful and made sure I got off at the right place – just tell them you want to go and see the lighthouse.
Dunnet Corner is in a town called Brough. Watch your pronunciation of this – it’s “Broch” similar to the Scots “loch”. I was pronouncing it “Bruff” as there’s a Brough Park in Newcastle where the greyhound racing and speedway take place. Staff are kindly understanding of foreigners with their silly accent, so don’t worry.
When you get off the bus, there’s a very obvious sign pointing north and a distance of 3 miles marked. Just start walking up that road. You can’t get lost! Apparently there’s a cafÃ© somewhere on the right but I didn’t spot it. It could have been one of a handful of buildings, but I expect it’s closed right now. Again, during the tourist season it’s probably far more obvious.
The hike took me around 90 minutes as I stopped to take quite a few photos of the scenery. Fortunately I’d picked a great day. A bit of cloud, a very slight breeze but no rain. And, best of all, no other people. I saw one guy in the distance walking his dog and a couple arrived at Dunnet Head itself just as I was leaving.
It’s a lovely walk up with gorse-covered land surrounding the road. There is a handful of small lakes to break up the green/brownery and a spectacular sea view on the right shortly after the houses, complete with tower of rock offshore.
At Dunnet Head itself there are two viewpoints – a cliff edge one and one further back from the edge atop a small hill which provides a lovely panorama back over the route you’ve walked (or driven) to get there. The cliff one is protected by a small barrier that it would be easy to jump over. I decided not to chance it as there’s not a lot of ground left from there before the real edge and it’s a bit of a drop…
It is a nice view and you can see the islands off to the east. From the higher viewing point, John o’Groats and Thurso are both visible. I’d expect they’d look fantastic at night with the lights on.
So a few photos and some video later, and I started walking back. I got to the corner in good time for the bus coming along for the trip back to Thurso where the driver asked if I’d managed to get anything to eat or not! It’s obviously a very “local” service as people hopping on and off all seemed to know him and each other.
Perhaps not a hugely exciting day out, but one I really enjoyed. Fresh air, countryside, wonderful views, quiet and a bit of exercise.