Day 246: Brough to Nybster

Distance: 22.32 miles

Ascent: 2350 feet

Weather: Sunny Spells

Accommodation: Wild camp Near Nybster


After a very restful rest day and being looked after far too well at Windhaven Campsite, Café & B&B I was ready to leave, though reluctantly as I would happily have stayed. Due to actually fully relaxing I was a bit behind with admin but I believe this week is a bit easier so no big issue.

I took the road down through Brough and then at a disused mill Ian (the North Highland Way guy) turned up. From here there was a slight track, a little overgrown that followed the coast and fortunately there were stiles, so it was fairly easy though damp walking due to the dew. Ian left to return to the car and would rejoin me at John o’Groats. I joined the quiet lanes, heading through Skarfskerry and at Harrow I headed down a lane back to the waters edge.

A farm track took me down in front of Castle of Mey. The Queen Mother bought this is 1952 when it was in a very bad condition and slowly restored both the castle and gardens, she spent about a month here each year. There was a lovely bench just of the rocks here, so I stopped for a short break. This track culminated back at a road and I would be on roads now most of the way to John o’Groats.

There is not much to say about this part but after an old mill, I cut across a field before following the coast for the final ½ a mile or so into John O’Groats. As expected John O’Groats was tacky, busy and not my sort of place, but I still had a photo in front of the famous sign and met Ian here who kindly bought me an ice-cream.

From John O’Groats it was a simple walk along the coast and up the hill to Duncansby Point. The lighthouse was not the most exciting I have seen but the views south where I was about to walk were stunning. I said goodbye to Ian and was on my way.

There is a sort of new trail the John O’Groats Trail which heads all the way down to Inverness almost directly following the coast. But I have heard from other walkers it is unwalkable in parts and to expect I will have to divert to the busy road.  Only time will tell but the walk from Duncansby to Skirza was fairly simple with stunning rock formations and some of the best cliffs I have seen.

Personally, at Skirza if I had created the trail I would have followed a quiet road for 500m before dropping down to the beach, eliminating a fairly dire section tracking back and forth wedged between a barbed wire fence and a cliff.

Eventually after the not nice section around Skirza the path dropped down onto a boulder beach which I carefully walked over for a few hundred meters before joining the sandy Freswick Beach. This made a nice change and allowed good views of Freswick Castle at the end of the beach, which was more of a large (very large) house than a castle really.  

From the end of the beach it was back onto the cliffs and bloomin heck were some of these a bit scary. The path wedged between the barbed wire and the steep, quite high cliffs was extremely narrow in places and with uneven, unidentifiable (due to being overgrown and in some places the grass overhanging the cliff) ground conditions I think it was actually downright dangerous in a few places, if it hadn’t been an ‘official’ trail I would not have walked this part and actually not sure I should have walked it anyway. (An example is shown below but this was not one of the really narrow ones as was not confident enough to take photos of the really narrow ones.)

Anyway, I made it and reached the parking area in front of Nybster where in fact someone was just pitching a tent. I was proposing to continue another 2 miles to Keiss as could get water and even a toilet there. But just as I was heading through the gate away from the parking area I heard “Charles” from behind me. I was surprised to hear my name, but it turned out to be someone (Tom) who had read a link that was shared by someone whom I met at Clachtoll, who had actually emailed yesterday to see if I was near Dornoch as he was camping there last night but I was on my rest day and nowhere near. He was surprised to see me as well, and I decided to pitch here. Tom had bought lots of coal and got a fire going and very kindly cooked me some chilli and gave me a couple of drinks. It was lovely having the fire as the evenings are getting cold now. Eventually after sitting by the fire for a while I headed of into my tent.

A good day in general even if some of the JoG trail was a little bit dangerous and great to have some company in the evening. I can already tell I am going to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the JoG trail. On the way South now.

charles compton