walking western isles
walking western isles, hotel accommodation western isles, scottish cuisine, weddings & functions catered for, scottish seafood, uist, carinish, lochmaddy, ferries, ornithology, fishing birdwatching walking, lewis, harris, benbecula, rspb, archaeology, neolithic, archaeology, skye, walking vacation western isles
John o'Groats' appeal is more metaphysical than material. Promoted as the mainland's northernmost point, it is about 874mi (1407km) as the crow flies from the extreme southwest tip at Land's End in Cornwall (England). Every year, hundreds of tourists make the long trip north to visit the famous town. Some even make the epic 'end-to-end' journey between Land's End and John o'Groats - more than 1000mi (1600km) of driving, cycling or walking. An impressive achievement, particularly for those who opt for the latter mode of transport!
However, for the purist, the honour of most northerly point actually goes to Dunnet Head, about 11mi (18km) west of the village, and marked by a lighthouse that dates from 1832. While in the area, you should also make the short trip to Duncansby Head, home to flocks of seabirds at the start of summer. A path leads to Duncansby Stacks, spectacular natural rock formations soaring over 196ft (60m) above the sea. There are a series of narrow inlets and deep coves on this wonderful stretch of coast. The village of John o'Groats, named after Dutch trader Jan de Groot, also provides a ferry link to Orkney. The Dutchman started the first ferry route from here to the islands with the blessing of King James IV in 1496.
Rock is the overwhelming feature of the Harris landscape - there's plenty of water too, in freshwater and sea lochs - but it's the surreal, glaciated moonscapes that distinguish Harris from the other islands. Like the rest of the Western Isles (there are 550 in total, 10 of which are inhabited), Harris has an unhurried, almost old-world feel. This is largely due to the region being the Scottish stronghold of the Free Church, whose deep attachment to the Bible requires the observance of Sunday as a day of rest and devotion. Consequently, there are no public transport services, shops and petrol stations are closed, and only a handful of hotels provide meals for nonresidents. You'll see signs prohibiting sport and even the use of children's playgrounds.
Harris is also famous for Harris Tweed, high-quality woollen cloth, some still hand-woven in islanders' homes. The weaving of the tweed originated on the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle estate. The castle was built in 1867 by the Scottish architect David Bryce for the Earl of Dunmore, and it was the Dowager Countess who encouraged the production of the local tweed.
The Cairngorms consist of a large elevated plateau adorned with low, rounded glacial mountains. Although not strictly a single plateau - The Cairngorms give the sense of being a single plateau, because the passes that cut through them are not very deep. In Watson (1975) the author gives the summit of Lairig Ghru as 835 metres, and the summit of Lairig an Laoigh at 740 metres, and The Sneck at 970 metres. Topographically - this means a walker could cross between the Cairntoul (1293m) - Braeriach (1296m) massif to the Ben Macdui (1309m) - Cairn Gorm (1245m) massif and onto the Beinn a' Bhùird (1196m) - Ben Avon (1171m) massif without descending below the 740 metre summit of the Lairig an Laoigh.
The Cairngorms became part of Scotland's second national park (see Cairngorms National Park) on 1 September 2003. The national park is in the Scottish council areas of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Angus, Perth and Kinross and Highland.