Photo Friday: John O'Groats, Part II
Okay, so I'm a little late. It's still Friday!
Days 3 and 4 of my John O'Groats trail hike. For the start of the trip, see last Friday's post.
Day 3: Ulbster to Wick
|The farm buildings appear largely abandoned, and the small graveyard (with mausoleum, front left) was not particularly well maintained. The graves I could see dated to around 120 years ago and earlier.|
|As we moved north, the coast became more rugged. We also saw more flowers in this stretch.|
Not all flowers are benign. The national symbol, the thistle, is definitely prickly and uncomfortable to brush against, though beautiful and displaying the sort of toughness the landscape requires.
|On the far right, beyond the windmills, you can just make out a couple of the many oil platforms that dot the waters. By this time, we certainly understood the efficacy of wind farms in the region.|
|Scarclet Harbour, one of the many, many gashes in the coastline we had to walk around. We were meant to climb down into it, but the trail was very narrow and cliffy, and the wind fierce and destabilizing. We decided to look from above.|
By late morning the wind was really picking up, and clouds moving in. We could see rain shafts out over the water.
|I spent a lot of pixels on the beautiful yellow-orange lichen.|
We were prepared for weather, and pushed on to one of the big attractions: Needle Eye Rock.
|At some 100 feet high, it's one big needle. |
|Just as well the rain was gone--so was the roof, long since. But the walls offered shelter, and with the sun back out it made a pleasant rest area.|
This scenically rewarding stretch of the coast had another cool surprise, in the form of Scorrie's Island, a sea stack that appears to have a cave running clear through it.
|I guess that means it's well on the way to becoming two sea stacks.|
When Wick Castle came into sight, we knew we were getting close--just as well for tired feet, though there were still two or three miles to go.
|Wick Castle in the distance, behind a typical JOG trail marker. I'm not convinced that along this coast you need to be told if you are northbound or southbound. If you can't figure that out, you probably shouldn't be out there.|
The walk into and through Wick was longer than we might have hoped, but interesting. By the end, however, my hiking partner was getting the message from his knee: back off. For the next two days, he drove the car to support my hike, visiting the best parts via shorter walks while I finished the trail solo.
Day 4: Keiss to Wick
It was important to start at the right time to do this part of the hike at low tide, as the River of Wester can be a dangerous or impossible ford at high tide and/or flood conditions. It was convenient that low tide was at the right time for the usual start.
For the most part, the wind was (as usual) more of an issue. Watch this video with sound off unless you like wind blowing across the microphone! The movie shows the sand blowing across the beach in mesmerizing patterns.
The river, when reached, was a non-issue, as hoped. My hiker partner had joined me for a good stretch of the beach in order to provide support if needed for the crossing (he's a great deal larger than I, a useful trait when crossing rivers). As it turned out, I was almost able to cross without getting my feet wet--if I recall, I only had to put one boot in water deep enough to wet my sock!
|The dreaded River of Wester. It really could be a problem at high tide, though it was hard to imagine when we were there.|
Once past the "barrier" of the river, it was on to the main features of the hike, though I found the beach walk to be meditative, as they so often are. At the end of the bay, I crossed in front of Ackergill Tower, originally built in the early 16th Century though most of what is there now was built in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It is now a private retreat center, so probably pretty modernized.
|I wouldn't mind doing an artist's retreat there!|
Climbing the bluffs south of Ackergill brought me to Sinclair Castle, built in the 16th Century and wrecked in the 1680s. Most of the ruined castles along the coast seem to have had some help in reaching that condition.
Wind and more drizzle kept me from thinking I wanted to move into this castle. The information posted about it makes it look like it was more hospitable in the 1600s, but I can't imagine it was ever comfortable, especially in winter!
Next up was the Noss Head Lighthouse. One of many built by members of the Stevenson Family (mostly the uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson, of authorial fame), it is still in service.
|Not fancy, but there is a clean simplicity to it that I like.|
Beyond the lighthouse, I enjoyed a peaceful walk through fields along the bluffs, which grew ever lower as I approached the "suburbs" of Wick. When I reached the pavement, that was the end of the day's hike.
Off to the Seaview Hotel in John O'Groats for the final nights of the hike. I finished early enough that we had time to do a little more poking around on the north coast, with views of the Orkney Islands just across the channel. Then back to the Seaview for dinner!
|Chicken with veg and haggis, and of course an oatmeal stout (with, of course, a punning name)!|
I'd hoped to finish the trail with this post, but I just can't! So next week we'll have the final day of the trail and a visit to Edinburgh.
Until then, greetings from Stinklet and the Ninja Librarian.
|Indulging in the time-honored tradition of gazing out to sea.|