John O’Groats
John O’Groats

Scotland's Northern Edge

5 days From £695

13 August 2019

The coastal views and landscapes are breathtaking – sometimes quite literally, as the wind whips in off the Pentland Firth and snatches the very breath from your mouth. Standing here on the northern edge of mainland Britain you are moved to reflect on the awesome, unstoppable power of the sea and the equally indomitable strength of the ancient rock beneath your feet, the two locked together in a timeless and never-ending battle.

We begin at Duncansby Head, the north-eastern tip of Caithness, with its jagged sea stacks and wheeling seabirds, and continue via John O’Groats to Dunnett Head, the most northerly headland of all, with extensive views in all directions. A visit to the Castle of Mey, the lovingly restored former summer residence of the late Queen Mother, is also included. Travelling west we continue to Strathnaver, the lonely river valley which evokes the dark days of the notorious ‘Highland Clearances’ of the early 19th century. From our harbour-side hotel at Kinlochbervie we seek out some of the gems of the north-west coast, such as Smoo Cave at Durness, a huge sea cave with a waterfall and a ‘blowhole’. We have added a third extremity, a thrilling trip by ferry and mini-bus to Cape Wrath, Britain’s most north-westerly point and as remote a location as you could find.

What's included?

  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
Book Now £695 Deposit: £100 Single supplement: £120

Tour highlights:

  • The famous Stacks of Duncansby
  • Journey’s End signpost at John O’Groats
  • Summer gardens at the Castle of Mey
  • The magical Smoo Cave
  • Officially the best hot chocolate in the world at Cocoa Mountain

Tour details

Dates 13 August 2019 - 17 August 2019
Duration 5 days
Cost £695 Deposit: £100 Single supplement: £120 Balance due by 21 May 2019
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code BWSNE19C

Departure Points

Location Depart Return
Glasgow 0715 1845
Edinburgh 0830 1730
Dunfermline 0900 1700
Kinross 0915 1645
Perth 0930 1630
Inverness 1430 1330

Subject to minimum numbers, the following pick-ups will be served by feeder coach and passengers will join/leave the main coach in Perth:
                                  Depart              Return
Montrose                     0805                1755
Arbroath                      0825                1735
Dundee                       0845                1715

Subject to minimum numbers, the following pick-up will be served by feeder coach to/from Inverness:

Aberdeen                    1130                1630

Please note all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately 10 days prior to departure.

Book Now or call 01334 657155 if you have any questions

13 August 2019: Itinerary

We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en route for refreshments. From Inverness our route takes us via Tain and Bonar Bridge to Lairg and Loch Shin. At one time the majority of the inhabitants in Lairg area resided on the high moorlands and straths, with the children of tenanting shepherds walking miles to school over rugged hill paths, but gradually these dwellings have been vacated in favour of a move down to the more accessible present village on the southern shores of the loch, which developed from around 1812. In the 1950s a hydro-electric dam was constructed which raised the level of Loch Shin by over 30 feet and it now forms one of the major attractions of the area, complete with a spectacular salmon leap.

We continue via Loch More and Laxford Bridge to Kinlochbervie on the tip of the north-west coastline.  Our accommodation is at the Kinlochbervie Hotel which overlooks the busy fishing harbour.  All rooms have private facilities with TV, telephone and tea/coffee making facilities. We arrive at the hotel in time for dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Kinlochbervie Hotel, Kinlochbervie

This morning after breakfast we will travel along the single track road to Keoldale, the starting point for our dramatic journey to Cape Wrath. A fifteen-minute ferry trip takes us across the Kyle of Durness and once on the other side we board a minibus which will take us along the 12-mile track to the headland, whose name derives not from the stormy waters of the area but from the Norse word for a turning point, for here the Norsemen turned their ships to head for home. On the way we pass an old tin schoolhouse, last used in the 1930s, and various buildings used by the MoD in connection with the bombing range here (but not during the tourist season!). At the point is Cape Wrath Lighthouse, built by Robert Stevenson in 1828 on the most north-westerly tip of the Scottish mainland. Looking east from the lighthouse you can see the spectacular sea cliffs stretching out towards Durness, which provide ideal habitats for many sea birds. Please note this trip is weather dependent.

On our return back to the other side of the Kyle of Durness, we move on to the village of Durness itself, where we will visit the beautiful old church graveyard of Balnakeil, home to the grave of the famous Gaelic poet Rob Don. This is a most interesting cemetery overlooking one of the finest sandy beaches in the UK. We will also visit the wonderful chocolatier at Cocoa Mountain where you have the opportunity to buy the finest hot chocolate drink anywhere in the world (official!). It also sells gorgeous handmade chocolates. Originally these buildings were used as an early warning station in case of nuclear attack, it was turned into a craft centre in 1964 and has housed a number of local craftspeople – sadly there are not many crafts-folks left today. Given the small size of the chocolatier shop we may have to split the group between Balnakeil Church and swop over.

We also visit the nearby Smoo Cave which has the largest entrance of any sea cave in the British Isles. Recent excavations show that the cave was in use 6000 years ago by the earliest settlers in the north. The “blowhole” and waterfall can be observed from an observation point above the cave. There is also a recent memorial to celebrate the life of John Lennon who regularly came to Durness on holiday as a boy. We then return to the hotel in time for dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Kinlochbervie Hotel, Kinlochbervie

This morning after breakfast we leave the hotel and set out on our journey across Scotland’s northern edge. We travel to Tongue where we will we will stretch our legs and break for refreshments (not included). The name Tongue has old Norse origins, though fairly obvious: it comes from “tunga”, a tongue of land projecting into the loch. Although the Norse people probably lived here between the 900 and 1200, nothing certain has been found of their settlement. When Thomas Telford completed the road south to Lairg in 1828, Tongue changed from being an island community relying on the sea for its communications. When the road to Thurso followed in 1836 a daily coach service ran and during the rest of the 1800s efforts to complete the road west to Durness continued.

We continue to Strathnaver Museum, Bettyhill. Located in the former church of St Columba which was built in 1700, the museum takes you on a journey from the mystical past of prehistory to the emergence of the Clan Mackay, the tragedy of the Highland Clearance and you will discover the vibrant culture of today, inherited from our Norse and Gaelic ancestors.

Strathnaver is one of the principal sites of the Highland Clearances.  In 1814, the “year of the burning”, as many as 15,000 people were cleared from the one and a half million acre estate of the Duke of Stafford (later made the Duke of Sutherland) to increase the income from the land by letting it to sheep farmers. Many emigrated to North America and never returned. Driving along this single track road beside the River Naver it is hard not to be moved by the thought of the terrible loss and upheaval that people here suffered.

We continue to Thurso and our accommodation at the Station Hotel, Thurso.  All rooms have private facilities with TV, telephone and tea/coffee making facilities.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Station Hotel, Thurso

This morning, after breakfast, we visit Duncansby Head, the north eastern tip of the Scottish mainland. The single track road from John O’ Groats emerges at the lighthouse which was built in 1924 and became automated in 1997.  With views north over Orkney and west to John O’ Groats and Dunnet Head, a well trodden path brings us to the first sight of the Geo of Sclaites, a huge cleft bitten deeply into the cliffs with a natural arch.  Further along the cliff top there are stunning views south to Thirle Door and the jagged rocks and arches known as the Stacks of Duncansby.

Our next visit is to John O’ Groats, the landmark at the “end of the road”, the northernmost corner of Britain, 874 miles from Lands End.  There are shops, ferry, exhibitions and a museum (of sorts) but the scenery is what it is all about here and it is magnificent with panoramic views over the stormy waters of the Pentland Firth to Orkney.  This is a seabird haven with puffins, shags, fulmars, kittiwakes, gulls and gannets and many more species nesting in their thousands on the rock ledges.

We continue to The Castle of Mey the former holiday home of the late Queen Mother.  Originally Barrogill Castle it was first seen by the late Queen Mother in 1952, while mourning the death of her husband King George VI.  Falling for its ruined, isolated charm she declared she would save the castle from ruin.  Having acquired the most northerly castle on the British mainland, she renovated and lovingly restored it and for over half a century she spent her summers here and created the beautiful gardens you see today. 

We continue on to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Britain with some of the most extensive views to be found anywhere in northern Scotland.

We return to the hotel in time for dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Station Hotel, Thurso

This morning after breakfast we leave the hotel and begin our homeward journey, travelling first through the fertile plain around the Thurso River then across moorland to the coast. We then hug the coast all the way to Tain, at which point we complete our circular tour. We retrace our route south along the A9 and return to our original pick-up points in the late evening.

Meals include: Breakfast

13 August 2019: Additional Info

13 August 2019: Accommodation

Situated in one of the most stunning locations on the north west coast of Scotland, The Kinlochbervie Hotel is a warm and welcoming place to stay, and we welcome pets.

Overlooking the fishing harbour of Kinlochbervie and Loch Clash to the Minch, with panoramic views over lochs and hills to the open sea, this family-run hotel is the perfect base from which to explore and enjoy this fascinating area.

Station Hotel serves fine Scottish meat cooked in a traditional style. There is a good selection of drinks including several whiskeys. Full English breakfast is included in your room rate.

The hotel is well located for Scrabster Harbour, and has welcoming, friendly staff.

 

13 August 2019: Enquiries

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