To the Top–Part Four: John O’ Groats

After Dunnet Head I find John O’Groats to be a bit of a let down. Probably mismatched expectations. I expect a little fishing village, but of course it’s not. It’s a little tourism village, with a minute harbour, more a breakwater, that moors a ferry and a life-saving boat.

IMG_3997When I say village, I’m not sure how many people actually live there. There’s a couple of kiosks, a craft market, a coffee-shop, an ice-cream stall, and a restaurant with knitwear products (??!?!)

I take some time on this break. A bit of knick knack shopping, soup and sandwich for lunch, whilst I read the newspaper write up of the Lion’s Match (that I missed by about an hour). Then a quick look at Google maps, and then down the east coast to Wick and beyond.

As I head south I feel somewhat empty. A lot of energy, planning, emotional, financial, social, and physical investment go into getting a motorcycle to the top of Scotland. Then you realise that for all intents and purposes, it’s done. Interestingly I didn’t feel that at the end of the Top Down Tour. Probably because I dropped the bike off, jumped on a plane and flew to meet Lu, Amanzi, and Charis for our US holiday. Whereas now I still have to ride all the way back to London.

But then my aspect changes. It’s hard not to on these roads, with these views. The weather continues to clear, and the vistas to inspire. I now give up entirely on photographs. It’s past 2pm and still 300 miles to Broughty Ferry, my home for the night.

One of the opportunities I considered with Ian this morning was to stop at Dunrobin Castle, just outside Golspie, to view a demonstration of the ancient art of Falconry. The last demo is at 2:30, however, and the castle closes at 4:30. I resign myself to the reminder that this trip is about getting to the top, rather than exploring the countryside, and I’ll just have to return.

By 4:30 I’m back at the Tesco Petrol Station in Dingwall, some 8hr15 and 151 miles after leaving this morning. The attendant is flabbergasted. Normal people clearly just don’t do this. Never mind heading to Dundee this late in the day. I’ve never been one for normal mind.

I’ve now got a couple of options to get to Broughty Ferry, I can cut across country, or head down the A9 via Perth. Again, given the time, I make the speed over tour compromise, and shoot back down the A9. A southerly deja vue of yesterday’s ride.

Today I find the ride more assertive on the overtaking. Rather than always waiting for dual-carriageways, behind the long queues, I take one or two cars at a time, to eventually overtake the lorry or bus at the head of the queue.

Despite the commentary about the ST1300, I find the bike becomes considerably uncomfortable on long days. The first 3 to 4 hours is ok, but in the afternoon my tolerance drops to 2 hours, then 90 minutes, then an hour. So I don’t make it to Perth, but make a stop at Pitlochry. This turns out to be the home place of Bells. (I reckon this would be on Lucy’s list of “we must stop here” places Winking smile)


Now it’s down the A90 to Dundee, and through this great little Scottish seaside town to my friends holiday house in Broughty Ferry. A very quick ride. Another big, and fantastic ride in Scotland comes to a close with a welcome beer, and the promise of an evening with good friends, great food, and a wee dram (or 2).

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