Tuesday, 28 June 2011

45) Go to John O'Groats

As I started to travel more around Europe while I was at University I started to realise how little of England I have seen. It is such a small country with so much variety that I felt like I should have gone more places. For those who are unfamiliar with the UK, John O'Groats is the opposite to Lands End. Lands End to John O'Groats is the furthest two points, the former I had already been to during holidays to Cornwall.

My mom and dad shared this sentiment too, thankfully (as it costs much more in petrol to drive to John O'Groats than to fly to a few European countries). We decided that on the bank holiday, May 6th - May 9th, we will drive up to the furthest point in Scotland.

Along the way we passed though the Lake District. I have never been here before, but I can honestly say it was more beautiful than any place I have seen before. The rolling hills, and small-but-prominent green mountains made the whole area look like a painting.

It was really nice stopping in one small village to get a coffee. They told me that the coffee shop we were in was one that they went to during their honeymoon a long time ago, so I took the opportunity to take a photograph of them outside it. Just around the corner we went into an old fashioned sweetshop and bought sweets that are hard to find now.

We then stopped at another lake only a few miles away where mom surprised many onlookers by feeling the swans with her hand (they aren't overly vicious but many people are scared of them biting their fingers, and apparently they can break bones with their wings).

We were going to stop overnight in Carlisle, but I was quite eager to get to Scotland early in the morning, as Ben Nevis is on the route. I had planned to try and convince my parents to climb Ben Nevis with me, as it is on my 100 things to do list. My mom was really supportive of me, anxious to help me complete my list. 

I took over driving in Carlisle as my dad had started to get tired. It was the first time driving my parents car, and they were worried as they think I drive too fast. I think they thought I did okay, even though the annoying Sat Nav kept beeping every time I went a couple of miles over the speed limit. 

I eventually arrived at Fort William, the town next to Ben Nevis (and on the way to John O Groats), and thankfully far from Glasgow, which I was less than impressed with. We didn't have anywhere to stay, since it was bank holiday and everywhere was either full or costing too much money, so we put the seats in the back of the car down and slept in there. It was very, very uncomfortable (though not as bad as the boxing day that I slept in the car after getting drunk).

In the morning we woke up early and set off towards Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in UK. I will be posting about climbing Ben Nevis separately, so I won't mention much here.

After Ben Nevis, and a victory meal, with aching feet I drove on towards Loch Ness. I've wanted to see Loch Ness for a while, after seeing a film about it years ago. On the way we stopped the car for a couple of photo opportunities. Most of the route was alongside the sea, which looked amazing with small gates fencing sheep in, with large drops down the cliffs to the sea.

When we got to Loch Ness we drove around the loch, which was huge, and then stopped at the hotel for the night.

In the morning dad took over the driving and drove up to John O'Groats. I was excited to see what it looked like. A while ago I had a dream where I was in Scotland, and I had a vivid image of it being green fields, a small, quiet road, then a cliff with a drop into the water.

We arrived at John O'Groats a few hours later, and after seeing the 'worlds smallest street' (which I didn't understand), and arguing with my dad about which bit you are meant to go to (which I was wrong), we got out of the car and had a look out at the ocean. As you can expect, there wasn't much there, it is more the 'being there', which was very valuable. We had a photo taken next to a sign that had the distance to Lands End, and Halesowen (which they had wrote on for us).

The John O'Groats bit itself I wasn't especially amazed with, but then we drove along this winding road (unusual, as there was nothing stopping it being straight) and stopped the car next to a lighthouse at the tip of the country. This place looked exactly like the place in my dreams. There was a green field, with a white fence stopping to the risk of falling down the cliff into the water. It was a really tranquil place, and it was nice walking along the cliff.

After admiring that area we set off back to Loch Ness, but on the way we went to the most northern point of Scotland, and also a beach just to wander along (as the weather was surprisingly hot).

In the morning we started driving home. We decided to go through the Yorkshire Dales, which was a slight detour but was really nice to see. It has loads of hills, and sheep scattered around with walls made out of piled rocks.

It was a very memorable and enjoyable short break with my family, and I am really grateful that we went. 

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