Category Archives: John O’Groats Trail.

JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL – 12. Whaligoe to Wick.

There’s no rush – too much to see.

I slept in. A relaxed breakfast followed so I didn’t set off till after 10am. There was no rush as it was drizzling slightly, I’d only gone a few fields when I saw a sign for Puffins. Sure enough on a small cliff near the path the little birds were arriving prior to nesting. I made my way along the narrow ledge to relish the experience. Along came the farmer who’d seen my approach, not to admonish me but to engage in good old honest chat. He had an interesting history and was full of information about the locality. Further up the trail as I walked inland he reappeared to take a picture for the JOGTrail Facebook page.

The next few hours were a delight on a mainly good path alongside the continually interesting coastline. Lots of large Geo’s to get round, sea stacks galore and the prolific bird life.

Ellen’s Geo.

Stack of Ulbster.

Sarclet Haven

Riera Geo

Riera Geo

At the massive Broad Geo I met a party coming southwards and found that their leader was no other than Jim, the new path warden, more conversation followed. This was a great spot for bird watching – I told you there was too much to see.

Mainly guillemots.


Broad Geo

A little further on and along comes the highest sea arch in Britain, the Needle’s Eye at the head of Ashy Geo.Off shore are a couple of hundred new wind turbines, I could just make them out.

I became lost once or twice on the broader, lower fenced areas, beware of your best waterproof trousers on the barbed wire fences.

The cliffs now are much lower but still show a diversity of geo’s, stacks and caves.

By the time I arrrived at Old Wick Castle my enthusiasm was waning.  It is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, though originally built in the early 12th century by Norse kings who then ruled Caithness, it was well situated between defensive geos.

Minor roads through industrial areas, probably most connected to off-shore work. The harbour was busy, you can catch a boat to the Orkneys from here.

My simple b and b by the harbour had the steepest stairs up to the second floor, no pity on the weary.

Wick town centre was a little run down, but I managed to find a cheerful Italian for supper.

Accommodation – Harbour Guest House, 6 Rose Street.


Out of interest here is the elevation profile for the day –

JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL. 2 Culbokie to Invergordon.

Over and along the Cromarty Firth.

After a breakfast of fresh farm eggs I took the lane dropping down to the Cromarty. The causeway bridge carrying the A9 was plainly visible, it looked a long way across. The traffic was heavy and fast but there was an adequate footway on the verge for my 30 minute crossing. As well as the traffic hazards terns were dive bombing me at the far side. I couldn’t wait to leave the road on the other side and I probably took the wrong path which led me up to the railway but no further. I resorted to trespassing along the line, The Far North Line, for a distance until I reached the level crossing I should have been on.  These private level crossings were a frequent feature across the single line railway, there aren’t many trains per day.  My track went up to a house and then onto a quiet country lane high above the water so there were good views all morning. The only people using the lanes were cyclists, many on a LEJOG trip. Groups of them were using backup transport which meant they could travel light. The busy A9 was somewhere out of sight and sound.

I arrived in sleepy Evanton at coffee time and the Novar Arms duly obliged. The B817 road was a bit busier but immediately out of the village was a signed cycle path in the trees alongside the road so the continuation was quite pleasant. Interestingly most cyclists persisted on the fast road leaving me to enjoy their cycle route. This gave me time to take in the views and high above me on a hill was the Fyrish Monument. Built in 1782 for Sir Hector Munro lord of the area who had served in India. It represents the Gate of Negapatam, a port in Madras, which General Munro took for the British in 1781. At the time the local population was being cleared off the lands they had worked for centuries to make way for profitable forestry and sheep. Survival was a problem and it is said the folly was built to help keep the locals in labour. The view from up there must be good but no time today. Along the road were signs of the Novar Estate, Sir Hector’s home. now concentrating on tourism of the shooting and fishing variety, somewhere in there is the big house. Out of interest his two sons were both killed in India one by a tiger and the other by a shark!  His daughter married and the estate passed into new hands.

The cycle path ran out leaving a stretch on a boring footpath adjacent the busy but safe road into Alness. A thriving little high street on which I found the basic Cafe Picante for a cheese toastie. I got the impression that most of the staff were central European as well as many of the clients. Oh and why do all these villages have so many, mainly Turkish, barbers?

Wanting to lengthen the day I pushed on a further 3 miles or so to Invergordon. This meant leaving the route of JO’G Trail, not that there had been much evidence of signage throughout the day. Again I was lucky as there was a cycleway out of town parallel to the road. I dropped down past the renowned Dalmore Distillerry to the shores of the Cromarty which I followed pleasantly into town. Along here I passed a standing stone marked as a Symbol Stone on the map. This is the Bronze Age Thief’s Stone which has three C6th or C7th  Pictish symbols carved on it, I couldn’t make them out. Looking back up the Cromarty I’m fairly sure that is Ben Wyvis in the back ground.

The views down the water were dominated by oil rigs in for repair. They looked strange with their legs up in the air.

Invergordon was an unpretentious town with a wide high street. It was at one time an important naval base and there are masses of old fuel tanks still on the edge of the houses. Aluminium smelting works closed and the oil rig business was a saviour. As I found later when wandering down to the harbour Cruise ships now call here because of its deep waters. One was being piped out this evening on its way further north.

The Marine Hotel where I stayed benefits from the cruises by the bus drivers and guides staying here, It was basic but friendly.

What had appeared to be a day on lanes turned very pleasant and interesting.


JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL. 1 North Kessock to Culbokie.

The Black Isle lanes.

A delightful day’s rural walking.

Munlochy Bay.

The day started dull and moist but before long brightened up with ever increasing temperatures. From the tranquility of the waterside I ducked under the A9 and followed lanes up onto the Black Isle. It’s not an isle at all, just a peninsula and there doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation of the ‘black’ bit either. Walking along I had time to award a top 5 of discarded cans in the ditches – Iron Brew, Dr. Pepper, Lucozade,  Red Bull and Tenants in that order. Wild flowers also drew my attention in a more positive way. There were wooden signposts which I wasn’t sure related to footpaths or roads. The road I was on soon became a dirt track anyway to isolated farms. At the first the farmer explained to me that the dominant crop on the Isle was potatoes, which weren’t doing well in the draught conditions, there was ample evidence where they went to.

Further on was a croft where the man expressed surprise at my presence, he proceeded to tell me how he existed in this remote place as buzzards wheeled overhead. His 4 wheel drive vehicle was backed up by several identical scrapped versions lying around – “for spares”. He proudly showed me the onward path down to the bay which he personally mows for his own route to the pub. It was therefore a pleasant stroll down to the water’s edge where I met up with the real JO’G Trail which had come through the forests. My hostess had warned me about ticks and in the high vegetation I was becoming paranoid about their presence.

Oyster catchers and Shelducks congregated on the bay. By the time I reached Munlochy village I was hot and sweaty and ready for a drink so the Allangrange Arms was irresistible. The locally brewed [Cromarty Brewery] Happy Chappy pale ale was perfect with a salmon bagel. In the village was an impressive church, unfortunately locked, with its presbytery alongside.

I followed a sign for forest footpaths, birch and pine, to the Clootie Well, a place of pilgrimage where a cloot or rag belonging to a sick person is hung in the hope of a cure. I wasn’t prepared for the vast amounts of rags deposited within a 50 yard radius of the well itself, every tree was festooned.

I used small lanes passing crofts and cattle but no traffic to take me over the hill to Culbokie, a small hamlet with a shop and a part time pub. I stocked up with salad items before going down to my evening’s B and B. This proved to be a characterful lodging with sociable hosts and dogs, lovely rooms and a view over the Cromarty Firth and distant Ben Wyvis. Whilst watching the sunset I got to sample Steve’s home brewed beers which were every bit as good as many a micro brewery.