Road trip – Thurso and John O’Groats
Posted in: Tour reviews
Today is day 12 of our huge 97 day road trip and boy have we seen so much already! The idea behind our Great British Road Trip was always to see more of our own country and appreciate it as a tourist destination in its own right. The first 4 weeks are in Scotland, starting as far north as we could.
After our fun few days in Glasgow we headed north, seriously north! Right to the top of mainland Scotland in fact to the sleepy little town of Thurso. The drive was pretty epic as we quickly escaped the urban sprawl of Glasgow and started winding around the hills and countryside of Scotland. After a quick-lunch break on the shore of Beauly Firth in Inverness we headed onwards ever North along the gorgeous coastal road of the A9. Forget the great ocean road in Australia, this road has some fantastic views and it was shame to turn inland towards Thurso!
After a long day on the road we reached Thurso, the northern most town in the British mainland. With a population of around 10,000 it’s a fairly quiet little town, with a nice high street market area and pretty church. We checked in to our hostel for the night, the quirky little “Sandra’s backpackers hostel” above a fish and chip shop of the same name. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet Sandra but the friendly staff showed us around. They’ve been running a hostel in the town since 1996 and get all sorts of guests. In the warmer months surfers often head to Thurso for the turbulent seas, perfect for catching a few waves. We were thankful of a double bed and a well stocked kitchen to make some home-made dinner. When you’re on the road for as long as we are the budget plays a crucial part so a good kitchen can make all the difference. We had a lovely chat with the staff and the next morning we were back on the road along the north coast to two famous landmarks.
- You can check out more about the hostel here.
Dunnet Head and John O’Groats
Like many Brits I’m sure, I always thought John O’Groats was the most northern point on mainland Britain. Turns out that’s wrong and anybody looking at a map of the british isles will notice this too. Dunnet Head is actually the most northerly point and is an easy drive along the coast from Thurso. Dunnet Head is quite a spectacular sight too, with a brightly painted light house and a sign marking the head’s importance. The waves crash against the rocky coastline and the Orkney islands are easily visible on a good day. There’s a very panoramic spot too with great views over both the mainland and the coast. Well worth a visit.
John O’Groats is just 20 minutes or so down the road and is nothing like Dunnet Head. Rather than being the most northerly point in the British mainland its actually the furthest point from Land’s End in the south-west of England. Making it the longest distance between two points in the UK. While John O’Groats is a pretty place to visit it lakes the drama of Dunnet Head. There’s some nice hotels here and a very historic one which is currently being renovated too. Some great cosy cafes with fire places to help you enjoy the view without getting cold. The coastline is fairly flat and you can catch a small tourist boat out from here. Personally I much prefer Dunnet Head but John O’Groats is still well worth a visit if only to get your photo next to the official marker sign.
Onwards to the Orkneys
We drove back towards Thurso just a couple of miles to Gills Bay where we caught a ferry over to the Orkney Islands, a place I knew little about and was very excited to explore! You can read all about that very soon on our official Places To Go Blog. You can also follow our tweets at @placestogoblog and the hashtag #GBRoadTrip
Thanks to our sponsors HostelWorld and Sandra’s Backpacker Hostel in Thurso for their support and hospitality. Also to GetYourGuide.com for sponsoring our tours.
Check out the video of our drive so far.