Sunday, 17 April 2011

Kieran I want…things I would like to do before 30…Visit John O’Groats or Orkney.

The Lonely planet guide to Scotland describes John O’Groats as:

“A car park surrounded by tourist shops, John O’Groats offers little to the visitor beyond a means to get across to Orkney…it serves as the end-point of the 874 mile trek from Land’s End in Cornwall”

I couldn’t have put it better myself, how disappointing it must be to anyone that has made the arduous journey of 874 miles to be greeted with such a depressing site; closed down pubs, a boarded up hotel and kitsch shops.

The sign is a private enterprise so you have to ask nicely to take your own photos if you don’t want to pay for their photographic services; although cheerfully enough the photographer waved us to go ahead and asked for a donation to a cancer charity they collect for.

I can’t see that anyone would want to spend anytime here at all, so Colin and I snapped away and then scooted off to catch our ferry across to Orkney.

Who would have thought that so many wonders of the world could be packed into such a tiny collection of Islands; Skara Brae, a 5000 year old prehistoric village predating Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. Maes Howe; a stone age tomb also about 5000 years old and broken into by Vikings searching for treasure in the 12th century – those cheeky Vikings carved runic graffiti on the walls; ‘ Olaf was ‘ere’ and ‘Thorni bedded Helga’. Then there is the Tomb of the Eagles, an Italian Chapel, Standing Stones and Scapa Flow among other wonders and yet somehow a sign with the words Twatt on it is enough to make the journey worthwhile.

A week or so later when we were heading back to Cardiff and stopped off in Chester for an overnight stay we wondered into a local pub and started to play Deal or No Deal on the pubs game machine. No word of a lie but one of the questions that came up was what is the name of the village in Orkney called – you can’t make up coincidences like that.

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