Day Fifty Five

We finally made it to John O’Groats today. Not the northern most
bit of Scotland, as I had thought (although it’s very close), but the
longest distance between settlements in the mainland.
It’s a tiny wind swept spot. There are only a few buildings, the most
grand of which is a hotel built in the 1850s, which has coloured
extensions reminiscent of the Brighton bathing boxes in colour and
style.
There are many cyclists here who make the “end to end” trip. They
look rather pleased with themselves, and I can’t say I blame them.
At over 850 miles, that’s some trip.
We have a delightful lunch over looking the ocean and listen with
amusement to one of the cyclist, having had his photo taken with
the iconic signpost to mark the end of the journey, frantically
searching for his lost glasses….only to find them in their case after a
good 15 minute search retracing all his steps.
After lunch we a book ourselves onto a wildlife boat tour which
promises seals a plenty. The boat is a large one, which is just as well
as the ocean is quite choppy….and it’s freezing. At this point we are
only 2,200 miles from the North Pole and the wind feels like its
come straight off the ice. Still, buoyed with the promise of seals, it’s
water off a ducks back, to me at least. Chris doesn’t fare as well – he
thought it wasn’t cold enough for gloves and ends up suffering
through that choice.
Our first seal comes much earlier than expected. Sitting on the ramp
in the harbour, is a baby seal. He’s fully out of the water…and too
cute for words. A little chubber, he’s spotty and about the size of a
small cocker spaniel. He stops for a while and draws a crowd, then
swims off to the nearby fishing boats hoping for a treat. So clever
for one so little – a treat comes his way as they are throwing fish
overboard. Little pet.
The boat trip took in the two headlands, Duncansby Head and then
Dunnet Head. The first of the heads was visually stunning. The
headland was exposed rock, in thousands of layers of different
colours. The layers were so distinct that in parts it looked as if it was
made from Leggo. We saw the first of our seals here to. All in the
water with their glossy wet heads bobbing up to check us out. At
one stage there were six of them in row. Bit hard to photograph as
they were in the distance, but the boat had binoculars. Was rather
envious of those with serious camera lenses at this point. The head
also had stand alone structures reminiscent of our 12 Apostles, but
there were only 5!
We then went across to the other head, which by coincidence was
where we stayed the night before. This head is home to many
nesting seabirds; shags, puffins, gulls amongst them, many of which
flew along with us. The gulls, which are huge here, in particular liked
the boat’s slipstream. The last stop was into a sheltered bay where
there were many, many little glossy seal heads peaking out at us,
and fatty boomba male seal lording over all of it from the shore.
Again, too far away to photograph, but good viewing through the
binoculars. Ironically, the closest we got to a seal all day was the
baby on the harbour ramp!
Frozen to the core, we set off for home, and walk along the
foreshore before dinner. The local sheep kept a close eye on us and
there was much evidence of bunnies with burrows everywhere….but
no bunnies. The only ones we have seen in Scotland were two baby
bunnies at the entrance of the Queen Mother’s estate.
We start our journey down the east coast tomorrow.

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