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  • Chris Jones

Day 90. Monday 19th June. Wick to John O’ Groats.

Both Max and Ellen had left on Sunday morning leaving me on the campsite to have a day off. I tried to ring the local leisure centre but couldn't get through so I decided to risk it and walk the 15 minutes up the hill. I'm glad I did, it was an excellent facility, sauna, steam room and a lovely pool, I was in there for well over an hour and felt great for the experience.

The night before, I asked the warden on the campsite which was the best bar in town for a pint and a meal, he sent me in the direction of Mackays, which interestingly sits on the worlds shortest street. Ebenezer Place is in the Guiness Book of Records as being only 2.06 meters long with only one address on it, No. 1 The Bistro, which is part of The Mackays Hotel. Wick was originally called Pulteneytown and was designed by Thomas Telford as the first Industrial planned town in Scotland. When it was built in 1807 it was the biggest herring fishing harbour in the UK. The street plan was based on that of the city of Bath in Somerset... not a lot of people know that... you're welcome... 😉

I'd had a few pints, caught up with my admin and was about to leave when the landlord, Murray introduced himself. A fellow Freemason, he encouraged me to go around to Camps Bar to meet the landlord Cameron who would be able to show me around the Lodge. A pint with Cameron, arrangements made for the following day and I was off to bed.

I had arranged to meet Ricky at 1pm after I'd been to the laundrette to wash all of my kit. Ricky is an ex squaddie, then a London cabbie, a Mason in Louth but being a Scotsman, happened to be up here on a touring holiday with his good lady. Ricky and I met for a drink and then met Cameron and had a ride up to look around the Lodge in Wick.

Lodge St Fergus 466 was another cracking Scottish Lodge, thank you Cameron, it was lovely to meet you and great to catch up with you Ricky, cheers for diverting on your touring holiday to come over to see me. 🤝

Monday morning, I woke at 3am with the rain hammering on my tent, I knew it was coming but the weather radar showed it coming in at 7am so I was hoping to be packed up and away before it started. I dozed on and off and as the rain eased up at about 8.30, I packed up and headed off. I hate packing away a soaking wet tent, it's much heavier to carry and the rain soaks through the entire fabric of the tent making it wet on the inside as well as the out. A misserable experience when you pitch up again the following night and have to crawl into a sopping wet house !!! 😫 I got up into town and it was again lashing down so I decided to stop in a cafe for some breakfast to wait it out for a bit. I eventually got going and the rain blew itself out in the early afternoon, I enjoyed some lovely walking on the beach and some well marked coastal paths which made a nice change.

Walking on the beach I met a lovely pair of ladies walking in the opposite direction, they invited me to join them for afternoon tea when I reached their place further up the coast. I got past the castle and it started to rain so I decided to head up from the coast to the road to find some shelter and inadvertently walked right into their back yard !! Helen and Asia, her daughter in law invited me it and we had a lovely chat over tea & biscuits.

I knew it was roughly 17 miles to get to John O' Groats and I also had a deadline to meet. I needed to be there for 10.30 the following morning for a very special meet up. After the late start, a relaxing day off and the rain had stopped I was feeling good so decided to crack on until I reached the top. I arrived at about 9.30pm, I'd walked 19 miles, I was knackered but elated.

The most northerly point on the UK mainland, a milestone in itself. Since leaving on New Year's Day I had now walked 1123 miles which equates to 2,852,357 steps !!! I was now finished on the East Coast for a while, until I eventually get around the south coast and start heading back the East Coast on the final push for home. It was now time to head west to cross the northern coast of Scotland but first, I needed a shower and a good nights sleep so I pitched up on the campsite, had a good scrub and turned in.

I woke, stripped out and walked from the site back around to the John O' Groats sign. Last week I got a text from Bob to ask when I would be arriving up here as he was due to be in the area. Bob, a Mason from Skegness had been there on New Years Day when I set off, he had introduced me to Hazel and Derek who had kindly put me up and looked after me when I arrived in Edinburgh. Last August, Bob and his wife Mel had put plans in place to cycle from Lands End to John O' Groats and they kept it a secret, they never mentioned it once, what were the chances that we would all arrive here at the same time !!! You wouldn't have put money on it would you ??? Anyway, a little earlier than planned, they arrived on their bikes and I was over the moon to be there to greet them...

A few coffees later and a good catch up, the secretive bikers needed to be away, they had another 17 miles to cycle down to Wick to prepare for their journey back to Lincolnshire.

Well done to Bob & Mel, what a amazing achievement, they'd certainly not been hanging around and they'd had a great trip.

I'll look forward to catching up with you both next year when I get back to Skeg. 🥰🍷

Now to hang around until 4pm, I'd booked the ferry over to Orkney, there's a very special Lodge up there that I'd wanted to visit for a long time and now was my chance.

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