Day 5 - Keep going up, turn right at the top and onto John O Groats
We were coming to the end of the journey up and day 5 would mark the turning point as we reached the top. The journey from Scourie to Durness was once again breathtaking. It is so hard to put into words what you see from the car, the mountains and valleys you drive through, the lakes, lochs and sea you pass. We had planned all along to stop at Cocoa Mountain – being avid fans of Dragons Den we had seen the chocolatiers take part and decided to pay them a visit. The shop/café was in the middle of what looked like old army buildings – very unassuming but a good place to stop for a toilet break, a drink and some family presents. Plus the chocolate was delicious and they do online orders!
We then visited Smoo Cave and encountered the first coach we had seen for days. Smoo Cave was another good choice to visit – no charge just to look and a small charge if you wanted to take a boat ride plus once again some good clean toilets!
I personally think the next part of the journey was the hardest bit. We travelled up through some lovely scenery past some more beautiful white sand beaches but then it became very barren and bleak. We had no lunch plans that day and in hindsight we should have taken the packed lunch on offer at the hotel. It felt like a very long journey and we couldn’t find anywhere to eat. We found some toilets just across an estuary in a place called Tongue. We knew there were two places to eat on this part of the journey but both were full. What you have to remember is that most of these places are very small establishments so it doesn’t take much to fill them. Luckily we had bought from home an emergency snack bag and it looked at one point like lunch would be two apples, a bag of crisps and a biscuit! We decided to press on until we either were so hungry we couldn’t go any further or something turned up. It felt like a very long drive. Eventually we entered Thurso which was a small town so we knew we would be able to find something. We settled on a picnic from the local Coop and sat at the side of the river eating our much needed food.
Re-energised we then visited Dunnet Head to ensure, as all good tourist should, that we had been to the most northerly point on mainland UK. Time for a bit of bird watching too and lots of photographs.
We finished our journey off arriving at John O Groats late afternoon. We both felt a bit tired and down as it had been a very long drive along the top but when we saw our Natural Retreats Accommodation we instantly cheered up. The front of our lodge, which we had booked for 2 nights, was completely glass and we looked out onto a view of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Orkneys. The accommodation was outstanding. We had booked the six berth lodge to ensure we had a good view. Sadly, I got very excited when I realised I had a washer, dryer and ironing board! Cue all the dirty washing accumulated so far being transformed. We completely unpacked and settled in for 2 days – of course first job was to rush down and take our photos with the famous John O Groats sign whilst it was quiet. A welcome hamper of local food awaited us at the lodge – much needed things like cheese, bread, eggs, milk, butter plus a few extra special ones and a bottle of wine. We had stocked up on some food at Thurso and settled down for the evening with a Coop pizza and salad, sipping wine as we watched the most spectacular sunset. Total peace and quiet and complete relaxation.