Day 10 was the most straightforward for me. As there are no buses running to John O’Groats on a Sunday anymore (darn timetable changes) I got a little coach instead. This coach is run by the John O’Groats Ferries, to bring people from Inverness up to John O’Groats to meet the ferry over to Orkney.
It was a lovely journey out of Inverness, beautiful sunshine and the scenery was stunning. Lots of fields with gorse and broom.
As time passed, the settlements got fewer and further between. When we got to Wick, I knew we were getting close, and the tension mounted. Then I saw a ‘Welcome to John O’Groats’ sign and I just wanted to get off the bus there and then! I composed myself, I’m a lady, and a couple of minutes later, we were there. There’s not an awful lot in the way of buildings at John O’Groats, a couple of souvenir shops, tourist information, a snack bar and the ferry office. There were no streets, these buildings were situated around the car park, with a couple of hotels either side. The coach driver casually pointed out the famous sign. “It’s just down there, you can take a photo with it if you want.” It was once the case that there was an official photographer and you’d have to pay, but happily for me, he has retired.
I had booked to go on an Orkney tour, so I couldn’t linger too long. Time to buy my daily postcard in the ‘First and Last’ a quick snap with the sign (thanks, Australian tourist lady) and a call home and it was time to board the ferry.
A smooth 40 min sailing took us across to the harbour, then a coach took us on to Kirkwall. We had an hour to look around this charming town, then onto Skara Brae. Although not far away by coach, we technically had to cross the Atlantic on the way there. Skara Brae is the remains of a village that predates Stonehenge by about 5000 years. We saw a further Neolithic site, the Ring of Brodgar, and finally the Italian chapel. This was built by Italian prisoners of war using the most basic of materials, but the inside was stunning.
I am typing this from a bench by the River Ness in Inverness. Today, I caught the final two buses back, so I can now 100% truthfully say that I have travelled between Land’s End and John O’Groats using only local buses, and I’m proud. I got chatting to the driver, Taylor, on the first bus, John O’Groats to Castletown. He’s approaching his landmark birthday too and has a similar sense of adventure, it seems. Taylor, if you’re reading this, happy birthday for August, and I hope you decide to do the European bus trips! This was one of the buses used to take children to school. Well, the few we picked up were much better behaved than some of my local ones.
I made my connection to Inverness with about 45 seconds to spare! Phew! It seems the bus timetables changed this morning. Otherwise I’d have been exploring Castletown for the next 2.5 hours. I’ve bought a map (hello, Waterstones Inverness) so I can map out my route and gaze at it in wonderment. Typing time over, off to explore Inverness before I leave.
Day 10 Inverness to John O’Groats Depart 7.15 Arrive 10.30
Day 11 John O’Groats – Castletown – Inverness Depart 7.35 Arrive 11.50