I’ve been deceived all these years!
I have to admit being disappointed—but only ever so slightly—to discover that John o’ Groats is NOT the northernmost point on the British mainland (although apparently it is the spot where the ‘last house’ is situated.
Since everyone who undertakes a marathon walk, run or bike-ride the whole length of the country, usually for charity, starts or ends their journey in John o’ Groats (to or from Land’s End in Cornwall, with more than 800 miles between them). I don’t know why, but I’d always wanted to visit John o’ Groats. I guess because it appears in the news on a regular basis, an iconic location in our nation’s geography. So it was one of the places we included on our itinerary during our recent Scottish Highlands and Island road trip.
The actual most northern spot on the mainland is Dunnet Head, about 15 miles to west of John o’ Groats. Turns out that Land’s End is not the most southerly point either. That would be the Lizard Point, but which is actually closer to John o’ Groats by less than 10 miles.
We arrived in John o’ Groats under brilliant blue skies on the Saturday afternoon, and enjoyed clear views over the Pentland Firth, the stretch of what can be perilous waters between the mainland and the Orkney Islands, less than a dozen miles north. After wandering around the harbour, we than drove the couple of miles east to Duncansby Head, lighthouse and Stacks, enjoying even more spectacular views over the cliffs.
Since our B&B accommodation for the night was in Thurso we drove there via Dunnet Head and its lighthouse to see the most northern point of the mainland for ourselves.
In the late afternoon sun we could even see the tip of the Old Man of Hoy sea stack above a headland on the northeast coast of the large island of Hoy immediately north.