8 June 2019

Yesterday morning, at about 10am, I strolled into the main car park at John O Groats. My virtual walk was over. The original distance from Lands End to John O’Groats is 811 miles per Google Maps. I somehow did 913, but I did do several detours, especially around the Yorkshire Dales and The Lake District.

Since my last blog I have covered the distance between Ramscraigs, up to Wick, along the A99, and into John O’Groats. And I have to say, it was probably the most boring part of my walk. Having visited the area in person last month, I really can support this statement. I can imagine anyone born there would do almost anything to get away from the place. And I can back this up. The first village you come to after Ramscraigs is Dunbeath. John Sutherland was born here. He became a doctor and before you knew it, he was appointed the Professor of Virtual Reality at the Gifu University in Japan. A bit extreme, but, if you want to get away, you do what you have to do.

With the exception of Wick, this final part of my virtual walk is all made up of remote straggling villages and hamlets of which there is very little to bring to your attention. But I’ll give it a go.

Wick is a small town which has its own airport, and it does have its own entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Ebenezer Place is the shortest street in the world. It is 2.06 metres long and consists of just the one door. Who knows, when you next attend one of FOCAL’s brilliant pub quizzes at The Bell, this might be a question which you will be now be able to answer!

The village of Whaligoe hosts the famous Whaligoe Steps. 330 steps were carved into the rocks between the cliffs leading down to a remote harbour. It looks very picturesque, but having walked 900 miles to get here, the thought of trudging down 330 steps, and then back up again, did not appeal.

Latheron is just up the road and there you will find the Clan Gunn Museum. That is to say I think you will. The picture on the website advertising the place shows a wall and a field. Basically, it is a small museum situated in a church which gives an insight into how the local clan lived way back when. So I delved further. I read some of the reviews. One particular visitor from Myanmar wrote the following:

“Although the museum offers interesting information about the ‘Gunn’ clan, I was very dismayed with the political views that the Museum assistant decided he had to dispense. I don’t know why, but he decided to explain at length his views on ‘Brexit’ and how bad the EU was. A strange view considering he also mentioned an increase of European visitors coming to this place this year. Besides, I simply don’t want to listen to complete nonsense arguments by a private individual when I just want to visit a museum.”

Here, here. But it did set me thinking how the old Scottish clans would have dealt with Brexit. I think it true to say that thy would not have tolerated such hicklety picklety. Back in the 11th century they would just have a meeting over lunch, decide to march to Brussels, and kill everyone they find. Problem solved.

Just to be clear here, in this world of political correctness, I do not support violence. I am merely expressing a view on how things may have been handled a thousand years ago.

And so we come to John O’Groats. As you may recall, I visited the place in person last month. Here are some of the photos taken on the day.

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I have to say that my opinion of the place is that it was a shabby mess. I was incredibly disappointed. It looked like an end of season desolate seaside town, without the attractions. And there was hardly anybody there. Considering the place is known by just about everyone living in the UK, and that thousands of people start their charity events there, quite frankly it is a disgrace. It’s as if the local inhabitants haven’t quite realised that their village is the most northerly point of the British Isles and people come there to see it. You can just imagine the conversation in the local shop.

 “There’s a lot of cars in the village again today. Do you think the A99 is shut again?”

One local councillor has forwarded an idea. He is proposing introducing a car park charge of £2 per car. He thinks this will raise £30,000 per annum which would then be spent on brightening up the place. There are two flaws in this scheme. Firstly, as it stands, people who drive all the way to John O’Groats should be paid £2 for making the effort. And secondly, as the village would have to be virtually rebuilt, £30k per annum would not go very far. Our loft conversion in Adderbury cost more than that.

I was interested to see if my view of the place was shared by anyone else. And it most certainly is. In 2010 the village was awarded the Carbunkle Award by the Urban Realm magazine. This prestigious award is given out to what is considered to be the ugliest place in Scotland. It gives out other awards too, like the Plook on the Plinth Award and the Zit Building Award. Want to know more? Visit my trusted friend at Google. He knows everything.

And that brings me to the end of my quirky facts discovered whilst I did my virtual walk. I hope you have enjoyed them. My favourite remains the elderly gentleman who took his wife and his Harley motor bike for a dirty weekend at The Barometer World Museum in Okehampton.

Back in the Britton household and I am pleased to say that we are now all moved into our new home here in the hamlet of Shaw Mills, just a six mile stone throw from Harrogate, and seven miles from the cathedral city of Ripon. We have activated Plan A which is to fit in all our Adderbury furniture and belongings as best as we can. We will soon start to introduce Plan B which is to gradually replace anything that is not right. Both settees are 6 inches too long, so they are being replaced. A new bed is being delivered in 10 days followed by a shed the following week. And so it will go on, for a quite a while, methinks. The only real surprise to date is the traffic problem in Harrogate. If you think Banbury is bad, think again. Harrogate is basically grid-locked every morning. Fortunately, we have about 57 different ways we can approach the place and we haven’t tried all of them yet. And the villages round here have some smashing names. Bedlam is just up the road, and Nidd is not too far away.

But now I want to deal with the business end.

The purpose of me doing this virtual walk was to try to raise as much money as possible to help fund the running costs of your local library in Adderbury. FOCAL have the responsibility to raise £10k every year. If they don’t, then the future of the library could be at risk.

I also realise that people are tired of being asked to sponsor this or donate to that which is why I have tried to do something different. Hopefully, in return for a donation from your hard-earned cash, I have given you something in return. The purpose of my weekly blog was to hopefully make you smile whilst you learnt something new and quirky every time. I also threw in quite a few litter picks around the village whilst I did my actual walking.

If you have appreciated my efforts, and you care about your local library, please make a donation now. How to do this is under the Donation link on this website.

Some of you have already pledged money on completion. Can you all now action those pledges.

Please, I won’t personally ask for donations again, so please act now.

I will post one more update to let you all know how much I have raised but then the site will be closed down.

Did I say every single penny donated goes to the library?

Please, donate now.

And that’s enough from me.

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