Cycling the Atlantic coast of Europe from north to south during the summer of 2017. View the archive, the route so far, or donate to MSF.

John O Groats

By Stuart Lowe on

I made the most of having a hotel room by sleeping in and having a cooked breakfast. The ferry to John O Groats wasn't until the evening so I pottered about in Kirkwall buying dry bags for my clothes and having some tea in The Reel cafe before visiting St Magnus' cathedral. Then I rode south over the Churchill Barriers to the bottom of South Ronaldsay. Just a few hundred metres from the ferry terminal I could see there wasn't much there so followed a sign to a bistro where I was welcomed by Leona (from Lancashire). Leona was in training for an ultra marathon later in the year. I had a rather small (for a hungry cyclist) portion of rhubarb crumble with custard. After that I went back to the ferry terminal.

I crossed the Churchill Barriers built during WWII to protect Scarpa Flow.

Leona (2nd from left) is in training for an ultra marathon.

A minecrafty church.

Whilst making myself some sandwiches I was joined by Dave, from Coventry, who had spent the past few weeks cycling around the islands. We were joined by a touring cyclist from Lancaster, called Tony, and a Scottish family on bikes. By the time the ferry arrived there were even more bikes there. We had to lug our bikes up to the top deck because the tide was out at the other side and that is the level we'd be disembarking at. During the trip I chatted to Hanz and Maria from Austria. Amongst the usual conversation topics we also talked about Asterix and Obelix and the specific jokes in different languages.

Lots of bikes on the ferry to John O Groats

Chatted to Maria and Hanz from Austria about Orkney and... Asterix and Obelix.

At John O Groats I disembarked and immediately was at the famous fingerpost. It was slightly surreal to arrive at this famously northerly place from the north. My long-distance arrival was not from the usual direction. There I got talking to Jack and Sarah who kindly took my picture for me. Of course I asked if I could take one of them too.

Chatted to Sarah and Jack at John O Groats.

I was about to start cycling to Land's End but through the unusal route of the west coast of Scotland and Ireland. Would I reach it by the start of September? My original plan was to reach Tarifa by early October.

Starting this segment of my trip would wait until the morning. I opted to stay at the campsite and so met Dave and Tony again. After dinner, the three of us headed to the local pub to exchange stories of our trips. They were both really interesting with entirely different approaches to what they liked to do on their trips but both united in their appreciation of down jackets. It was a good evening. I was finally in Scotland.