North Coast 500 - Day 5 - Armadale to Thrumster


Day 5 was what my Mum would call a 'good washing day'. I looked out of my bedroom window to see the trees bowing to the bluster. But before embracing the elements - breakfast. A poached egg on toast served on a shiny oyster pink plate. Followed by a slice of crusty bread with the best homemade raspberry jam I've ever tasted. Detta waved me off from the drive, her big smile beaming as her hair danced an unruly jig.

I drove into the grey. The road at the top of Scotland was a little wider to the ones I'd become accustomed to on the west coast. The mountains far behind, I drove through gentle land, soft, rolling and peaty brown. A quick petrol stop in Thurso and then onto Dunnet Head. At the very tip of this peninsula is Easter Head, the most northerly point of mainland UK. In my mind, I thought there would be coach loads of folk all jostling to take selfies for their 10 seconds of being the most northerly person. I stepped out of the car looking for a gaggle of other folk, but I was alone. For twenty minutes I walked around the tip of the headland, being the most northern person.

This sheep with a nonchalant chew was a little bit further north, but I didn't quite fancy heading onto that cliff edge in the wind.


For a few minutes, I watched the gulls coming into land, battling the elements trying to find their nests tucked into the cliff face. There were a few aborted attempts, their little pink legs looked quite comical flailing behind them.

And then onto John O'Groats for lunch. From the cafe window, I watched a little scene developing. It seemed that folk were just driving into the car park, walking the short way to the famous sign with all the directions on it, taking a selfie, dropping fixed smiles, doing zips back up, and getting into the car once again.

I had seen a few photos of these colourful buildings when I was researching my trip. The self catering holiday apartments were radiant against the grey.

The harbour was deep and quiet compared to the force of The Pentland Firth outside. After a quick mooch around the Christmas shop (full on tinsle and festive tunes), I drove to the Stacks of Duncansby. From here you can see to Orkney. As I walked on the path, I came across the Geo of Sclaites which is a deep cleft cut into the cliffs, a popular spot for the nesting gulls. 

And then the view of Thirle Door and the jagged points of the sea stacks. I imagined how many landscape photographers had camped out here waiting for the most perfect light to capture the shot.

My journey down the East coast had started. I had mixed feelings. I was so chuffed with myself I'd come this far, and I was excited to be heading home to Suzi, but there was also a pang of sadness too. I'd turned the corner, heading south, and I knew my journey was well over half way.

Further on I saw a sign to Pier Head. I took a trip down to a little village and looked out across Sinclair's Bay. A few folk had decided to pin out their washing on this blowy Caitness day. Ackergill Castle stands in the background. I liked the way the jeans danced, sometimes alone, sometimes together.

And then onto Noss Head, the road long and straight like the runway at the adjacent Wick airport. I had just driven through the wonderfully named Staxigoe and Papigoe.

At Noss Head, I stretched my legs and walked along the peaty moor to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe - such an impressive structure, seemingly rising from the ocean, with a dramatic drawbridge across a ravine.

After a walk to the castle, I jumped back in the car to drive to my Airbnb for the evening. Up a long gravel drive with spring flowers on each side, I reached Thrumster House. Good old fashioned hospitality ensued! A note was stuck to the door for me to beep my horn when I arrived as they were out in the grounds. Islay and Catherine told me about the house, how it used to belong to the Innes clan, and they showed me photos of the last family members who lived there.

Inside, the breathtaking staircase, and the large fire crackled, the flames leaping in the grate. I was greeted by a big bounding dog, Bertie, he liked to keep an eye on things.


I sat with my cup of tea and planned the next day - (a beautiful blue day, lighthouses, beaches, and a chance meeting in a stone circle). More soon! If you'd like to read my days so far, you can just click on the previous posts links - thanks for following my trip!

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