Day 78: 09 Jun 2014; Oldhall to John O’Groats

Day 78: 09 Jun 2014; Oldhall to John O’Groats
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 78
Date Mon 09 Jun 2014 Start to end time 10h 02m
Start point Oldhall End point John O’Groats
Miles today 25.88 Cu miles 1,476.37
Ft today 1,608 Cu ft 198,298
Route miles left 15.30 Route ft left 767
Today’s weather Brilliant sunshine most of the day. Clouded over with light rain in evening. Moderate South Easterly wind. About 17C in the sun
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Today’s location
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
GPX based track of today’s walk
(click here to access to access downloadable file)

“On the night before the achievement of a major goal, you might expect that you wouldn’t sleep too well. And indeed that was the case last night. But I lay awake not in keen anticipation of arriving at John O’Groats, but because I had camped under a tree full of roosting rooks. The good thing about rooks is that they make a lot of noise during the daytime, but are quiet at night. The bad thing is that up here it that it doesn’t get dark at all at this time of year. So the rooks were chattering away like excited teenagers until about midnight, when there was a brief twilight, then at it again until at about 3 am, in the bright early morning sunlight. And to compound the cacophony, the person in the caravan near to where I was camped decided to effect some emergency repairs to his door, which consisted of slamming it shut as vigorously as he could, repeatedly until he was satisfied with the closing mechanism.

So I was a bit bleary-eyed when I eventually surfaced at 6 am, and stepped out into the inevitable midge storm. I packed as quickly as I could before I was eaten by these persistent parasites, and set off in the direction of John O’Groats. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the views over the flat landscape were outstanding. Clear blue skies, towering clouds, and emerald green fields.

I’d planned an easy – but long – road walk to John O’Groats. There wasn’t much traffic, so the walking was rapid and I made speedy progress over the tarmac. I was surprised by just how straight the roads were. At one point, I found myself on a long straight road, heading North, which had no bends in it for eight miles. It must be one of the longest straight roads in the UK. The Romans would have been proud! By mid-afternoon my feet were beginning to feel the effects of this extended trek over tarmac. But suddenly after a long uphill slog with just more and more road opening up in front of me, I came over the brow of a hill and wow! In front of me, a magnificent vista of the North Atlantic, dotted with the Orkney Islands, came into view and made me forget all about the pain in my feet.

I’d met a couple of cyclists a few days ago, heading from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and they warned me that “there wasn’t much” at John O’Groats. Well to me, having spent weeks in the wilds, it felt like a real metropolis. There was a pub, a shop, at least three tea-shops, and a hotel. It’s all about managing your expectations!

John O’Groats isn’t the most North Easterly point in the UK, so I duly hiked the extra two miles to Duncansby Head, which is. The best part of the day was that here I was met by my wife and eldest son, James – himself a former Scout and participant in the Centenary Jamboree. It was brilliant to have some real family company again – the first since Rob joined me on ben Nevis. After admiring the view at Duncansby for a while, I walked back to John O’Groats and had my photo taken by the signpost – I now have a matching pair – one from “LE”, and one from “JOG”. So that’s seven of my eight milestones achieved. It’s not the end of the road as tomorrow I have a 15 mile hike to Dunnet Head, the most Northerly point in the UK. So I’m not celebrating just yet but I have to admit that I am feeling that this isn’t end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end….”

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Sounds like a pretty effective deterrent combination to me… This road must rank as one of the longest straight roads in the UK. It was “only” 8 miles but it felt like an infinity. And looking back, the ubiquitous Ben Klibreck, first spotted 3 days ago, is still visible..
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Lupins growing in the roadside verges near the track to Duncansby Head At Duncansby Head with our elder son, James
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Duncansby Stacks towering over the North Sea Last camp of the trip. I’ll miss my little portable house…
Panorama looking North, out to the Orkneys. Stone fences made a reappearance today, for the first time since Wales
The previous day’s blog follows below the blue line
Solid line blue