Thursday, 4 July 2013

31. Land's End to John O'Groats. Nearly there: Inverness to Wick. John o' Groats: a 'seedy' let-down. Brora Cashmere Sale. Castle of Mey. Queen Mother's lavatory seat.

David Sansom 1 July 2013

Rob Brough, 1 July 2013

Tuesday, 2 July 2013. 
Email from Robert Brough

"Hi Mary, 

Midges have mostly gone. They tend not to hang around the east coast because there are less hills!  Meaning less water and more wind which they find hard to fly in.  Such a huge relief as we're both covered in bites! 
 Old Castle, Wick

Wick's Black Saturday 1885 by Robert Anderson

Inverness is a pretty city, it is the capital of the Highlands and so has everything you need for climbing, walking and other Highland activities. We picked up a huge map and have been using it to find out how far the next towns are to get food.  We have passed through Tain, Dornoch, Brora and Helmsdale and we aim to get to Wick tonight which would only leave 20 miles tomorrow and mean we wouldn't have to walk through the night!  We walked 32 miles yesterday which is our longest yet! 

In terms of the sign we are hoping to get there mid-afternoon so we get the sign but if not we will have to make do with the road sign I guess.  Will send some pictures but it has been very boring scenery the last few days. 

 West Highlands taken by Rob Brough

It’s starting to change now and become very remote and pretty. A bit like Cornwall but with less people!  I’ll send some pictures tonight.


  • At John o'Groats you have to pay £18 to be photographed by the signpost, but Wikipedia helpfully tells you that "a free plastic signpost" is on the wall next to the First and Last souvenir shop and the harbour.
  • In 2010 the town 'won' the dreaded Carbuncle awarded by Urban Realm for being the worst town in Scotland for  tourist tat and " clutter of timber huts, caravans, portacabins and untended landscaping."

 Castle of Mey

Front Hall, Castle of Mey
The Queen Mother's bathroom at the Castle of Mey.

The Queen Mother in her garden

John o'Groats is six miles away from the Castle of Mey, where the Queen Mother had her holiday home. It is well worth a visit. The rooms are simply furnished and her bathroom was positively spartan. The black plastic lavatory seat doesn't look in keeping with the rest, so perhaps it was added. There is a copy of Hello, which she used to read, by her bed. She also used to be fond of a gin and Dubonnet cocktail  but pubs in this country don't seem to stock the latter any more.

Brora Cashmere Fair Isle Jumper £149

Neil Gunn (1891–1973) by David Macbeth Sutherland 
Wick Library 
 Queen Victoria, 1819–1901, loved Scotland.
Copy after Franz Xavier Winterhalter
Dornoch Council Chamber
 Cathie looks on as boat enters Brora Harbour by Michael Clarke

 Duncansby Stacks (near John o'Groats) 
by Banks, Wick Library

David Sansom and Robbie Brough, both 19, have raised £7,256 so far for Emmaus Oxford, a charity which houses and gives work to the homeless. You too can become a donor via
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