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John o'Groats Trail from Tain to John o'Groats

John o'Groats Trail from Tain to John o'Groats

Postby Birikini » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:12 pm

Route description: John o' Groats Trail

Date walked: 27/04/2019

Time taken: 11 days

Distance: 195 km

Ascent: 2360m

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We, 2 german women, have completed the Trail from Tain to John o'Groats in Mai 2019 with backpack and tend. We stayed 4 days in Helmsdale Hostel, doing Helmsdale to Berriedale and Berriedale to Dunbeath, including 2 days off with walks at Helmsdale, due to the strong wind coming from west and night temperatures below zero.
We still have to do the stages from Inverness to Tain some day. Usually we wanted to start in Alness, because we thought it is better to have some extra days to finish the trail in time before our plane departs from Wick. But we stated on saturday and there was no early bus in the morning from Inverness, and we had to take the train which arrived in Tain late.
We used the John o'Groats Map from Harveymap, not that much for navigation, but more to know about the area day by day. Also we read every day the walk description from walkinghighlands to get an idea of the upcoming stage. The information weather to walk inside or outside a fence was not usefull, we decided by ourselfs, as situations may have changed since a ranger is working on the trail. We never got lost, maybe sometimes we missed a devision, but as the trail always follows the coast, one can never get lost.
We walked from south to north and it was a good idea to do the Stage from Helmsdale to Berriedale without heavy backpack. It is the first stage on the cliffs, and I we needed to get used to this kind of terrain and walking conditions. Later on we got realy used to it. The second day on the cliffs we used a cardboard roll to cover the barbed wire fences, which was a great idea, expecially when we lost the route or couldn't find a stile.
From Helmsdale to John o'Groats there are places with wells or/and geo's where we had to walked realy close to the edge. At Keiss castle we had to leave the trail and walk the street for a while for that reason, and because the farmer was wathing people trying to walk over the field for that reason.
River crossing was easy, as they never where realy deep. Even before Keiss it was just fun.

Camping sites:Dornoch, Lothbeg Point (great and wild), Dunbeath, Wick and John o'Groats
Hostels: Inverness and Helmsdale
B&B: Whaligoe Steps (food is awesome)

We cooked and bought fresh food on the trail. You can find supermarkets on every stage, except Whaligoe Steps.
Further we can recommand:
Dornoch: Cocoa Mountain for the besthotchocolateoftheworld
Embo: Gate Center (we left the trail before Embo and continued on the beach)
Brora: Indish food at Sid's spice
Helmsdale: Timespan (best scones) and La Mirage (for the biggest and best fish and chip serving)
Dunrobin Castle
Brora: Clynelish Destillery
Helmsdale: Timespan exibition about hering and clearences)
Badbea: You cross the clearences village anyway
Dunbeath: Hertiage Museum (or you read Neil M. Gunn books in advance as my book recommendation for the trail)
Additional you will just come across various castles and brochs

Words of honor
Thanks to the Ranger Jim Blunting for the amazing work he is doing to keep the Trail walkable.
Thanks to Jay Wilson for the advice to walk in April/Mai.
Thanks to Mr. Henderson to drive us back from Dunbeath to Helmsdale, because the bus didn't come.
Thanks to Mary in Helmsdale Hostel to drive us to Berriedale.
Thanks to Rhona from Inver Caravan Park in Dunbeath to offer a trailer for the cold night.
Thanks to Gillian and her father from Keiss, who helped and offered a kettle with hot water in the morning.
Walking diary and pictures
You can find (in german) on my blog:
Even when you cannot read the words, the pictures tell a lot
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Joined: Jul 16, 2017
Location: Germany

Re: John o'Groats Trail from Tain to John o'Groats

Postby LaurenAlexandraAgain » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:08 pm

Thanks for this! The John o'Groats Trail is on my long-term radar, so I'm always interested to see walk reports on it. Sounds like you guys had a good time!
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Re: John o'Groats Trail from Tain to John o'Groats

Postby onsen » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:20 am

Thanks for sharing your trip, Birikini.
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Re: John o'Groats Trail from Tain to John o'Groats

Postby trekker53 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:00 pm

Glad you enjoyed the trail and you found the locals were most helpful. More and more Europeans are now discovering this bit of the Highlands.
A quieter walk than some more crowded trails.
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Location: Wick

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