- Day: 100 – Thursday 14th September
- Started at: Keiss
- Finished at: John O’Groats
- Miles: 12
- Miles from LE: 1231
- Miles from J’OG: 0
- Duration: 5.5hrs (9:15-14:45)
- Trig points visited: Duncansby Head, 64m – ND405732
- Ales imbibed: 2x Scapa Swelkie + far too many whiskies!
Where to start? How can I sum up the day in just a few words? Well, I’ll give it my best shot.
I left Keiss with an air of excitement with all sorts of thoughts flashing through my mind, but I had to concentrate as for the first half of the day I decided to stick with the road. Some drivers really don’t give pedestrians much space and on occasion I had to leap into the verge.
I took a break down by a derelict pier at Skirza and had a reflective moment before the rush and excitement of the last few miles along the coast up to Duncansby Head and finally round to John O’Groats. It was interesting walking; along the tops of sea cliffs but very much a heathery and slightly boggy terrain underfoot – 2 features which in my experience don’t often come together. There was very little sign of a path until I came to Duncansby Stacks which are a stunning feature. I was fighting back tears over much of the morning because I was finally allowing myself to actually believe that I’d be walking into John O’Groats later in the day. It’s something which I’ve visualised a number of times over the course of the trip but not allowed myself to get properly excited about until now. ‘I think I might just do it!’
I continued on and despite trying to take my time and relish the experience I arrived at Duncansby Head for lunchtime. My average speed was higher than usual on account of being fuelled by adrenaline. Also, the weather was pretty wild; very windy and the odd shower and so unfortunately it wasn’t ambling weather. Duncansby Head is technically the most north easterly point of mainland Britain, but for me the finish line was at the John O’Groats signpost which was a mile to the west along the coast.
With just half a mile to go I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat, had tears streaming down my cheeks and was virtually running. I rounded a corner and the post came into view. I’d arrived. I collapsed on to a nearby bench and watched as tourists posed with the famous sign and thought about what I’d achieved. I was a whole mixed bag of emotions; pride, relief, excitement, disbelief, joy, satisfaction and many many more. Once I’d finally gathered myself together I called members of my family and friends to share the news of my arrival. I fell apart all over again with every phone call I made. Ironically, my parents who’d I spoken to virtually every day and who had not been unavailable at any point, were en route to Budapest so were at 35,000ft at the very moment that I arrived. That phone call would have to wait!
I’ve done it!
Once I’d had my photo taken with the signpost, I headed to the hotel. I showered, dined and hit the bar. Time to let my hair down and celebrate. I was overwhelmed by the messages of congratulations that I was receiving on Facebook, I was sat in the corner beaming! After a couple of local ales, I got chatting to some of the other patrons who once they’d heard my story were kind enough to offer me drams of whiskey, which I couldn’t resist. After one too many whiskies I tottered off to bed, tomorrow I would start planning the final stage of my journey. I don’t mean my return journey home, not just yet anyway!
Before I set off from Land’s End, some of you may have read that I took a trip to the Isles of Scilly. When I was there I went to the most south westerly inhabited island called St Agnes and I went to the most south westerly point. Whilst there I dipped my toe in the water and also picked up a pebble (a very small pebble!) which I have carried all the way to John O’Groats. My aim now is to get to Skaw, which is the most north easterly beach on the most north easterly inhabited Shetland island of Unst via the Orkney Islands. And when I get there I think I’ll throw the pebble into the sea. I won’t necessarily be walking, I’ll do a bit but I’ll be using transport, maybe even a hire car – gasp! Then I can say I truly have travelled the full length of Britain.
So stay tuned, this isn’t quite the final chapter!