Scotland Day 6 part 2: John o'Groats to Thurso
The afternoon of June 21, we drove north along the coast of the North Sea, through Wick and to John o'Groats, supposedly the most northerly village on the British mainland. A lot of walks, races and charitable events take place between John o'Groats and Land's End, the most southerly place on the British mainland in Cornwall. The place is named after Jan de Groot, a Dutchman who during the late 1400s ran a ferry from the Scottish mainland to Orkney. Sights on the way toward John o'Groats...A few of the millions of sheep that inhabit Scotland. The stone walls used for fencing make everything picturesque.
We stopped here for a photo op and I thought this made an interesting shot, though I don't remember the name of the place.Here we saw the John o'Groats House Hotel which is closed and in need of restoration but I understand the bar is still open. The whole afternoon was very cloudy, foggy and misty. I found John o'Groats to have a very interesting and almost foreboding atmosphere. I walked alone the short distance from a shop and below the almost abandoned hotel where I saw a nice view of the harbour. The cold wind would've been chilly had I not had on 3 - 4 layers of sweaters and jackets. A big change from the 90 degree heat of NC where I live. Despite the cold, I decided to have ice cream, while my friend came back with a lamb's wool hat and wool sweater from a shop.
A Viking (or Norseman) still stands guard near some of the new shops. Evidence of their historic presence remains everywhere on the north coast.The stop at John o'Groats was brief and we headed on toward Thurso (above) in Caithness where we were to stay the next two nights in the Pentland Hotel. The misty atmosphere remained and Thurso seemed a gray town (lots of gray buildings) with tons of history. It was a wee bit bleak but I enjoyed it anyway. I love atmospheric settings and this was great research.
Just walking down the street is fascinating because everything is so different from the US. We strolled from our hotel, along Princes Street toward the shore. We walked on the sandy beach for a while, then along a walkway toward Thurso Castle, an interesting abandoned ruin.
At the time I didn't know the name of the structure but someone in our group mentioned Sinclair. We couldn't get near the castle from where we were because a river ran between. I researched it when I came home and found that Sir Tollemache Sinclair rebuilt Thurso Castle in 1878. The Gothic grandeur is more clear on the gatehouse. This is how it looked in the late 1800s. One source says a fire destroyed it. Another says it was built in an unstable way, without enough support, and when a World War II sea-mine exploded nearby this made the building unsafe. Part of it was knocked down and the place abandoned. The original castle on the site dated from the 1100s and was an earthwork fortress, founded by Norse Earls. Later, during the 1600s, a stone tower house was built. Thurso means Thor's River. The Vikings lived here from the 900s. The Scots evicted them in the early 1200s.