The best way to combat Post Holiday Blues is to follow up immediately with another holiday. Saturday morning we decided it would be fun to drive to John o' Groats – the very top of Scotland, the last bit of mainland UK before you either fall into the sea and die or swim to Orkney. So we hired a Ford Focus or similar and headed north.
We consisted of myself and Gareth, who you may remember as the noble soul who dragged my unconscious form out of the Radiohead mosh pit last November. We covered six hundred miles on this trip, and I'm ashamed to say I was perched in the passenger seat the whole time. I've had Issues with with Scottish roads ever since the Mothership's traumatic visit. I was a rubbish driver to begin with, but my nerves were shredded after a week of dodging sheep on single track island roads with Mum in the back seat hissing Shaaauuunnnaaa!, her foot stabbing at phantom brakes.
It seemed a feasible plan on paper, to the top and back in a day and a half. But the A9 was choked with roadworks and elderly Germans in caravans, causing much crankiness and scoffing of chocolate digestives. When we finally inched past Inverness, the road was blurred by great slabs of rain. But we pressed on – if you waited for good weather in Scotland, you'd never go anywhere.
We stopped in the lovely wee town of Dornoch for a 4 o'clock lunch. An old man wobbled up and down the street, shouting something about helicopters. He approached us with his can of Strongbow and declared with a burp, "Love is all around".
Entertainment was all around, too…
The rain cleared further up the coast. The sea looked still and silky grey, blending perfectly with the sky. Oil rigs hunched along the horizon like spiders. We finally reached John o' Groats at 8 o'clock.
As Rory says, John o' Groats is John o' Great. But once you've posed for photos at the cheesy sign, there really is bugger all to do, especially when John o' Groats Novelty House is closed.
So we decided to find the actual, official most northern spot in the UK. According to the map Dunnet Head jutted out further than John o' Groats. We could make out a sign in the distance, a D and a Head, so we headed up the road.
It was a gorgeous albeit windswept spot. We gazed out to nothing, congratulating ourselves for reaching The Very Top of Scotland. Woohoo! What a day! And we still had four digestives left!
We wandered past sheep with ridiculous rabbit-long ears until we reached cliffs that teemed with seabirds. Thousands were tucked away into the crevices, dainty puffins dwarfed by fat gulls. Further along we saw what reminded me of the Twelve Apostles in Australia, just not as many. And not drowned in sunlight. We decided to call them The Three Neds.
And then the rain cranked up again. We got drenched, icy jeans clinging unpleasantly to skin, muddy water swishing inside our shoes. Then Gareth's leg disappeared down a putrid hole that almost claimed his shoe. We trudged back to the car and fired up the heating. The air swelled with the scent of peat and gently baking sheep shit. But who bloody cared? We saw puffins! We saw seals diving for their dinner! We were at the very top of Scotland!
Except we weren't at the very top of Scotland at all. As we peered at the map to locate our hotel, we realised we were at Duncansby Head, not Dunnet. And The Three Neds were better known to the world as The Stacks of Duncansby. The Very Top of Scotland was actually ten miles down the road in the opposite direction.