A work in progress, the John o' Groats Trail is a long distance walking route from Inverness to John o' Groats, and will provide a vital missing link for Land's End to John o' Groats walkers. The route was devised by Jay Wilson; it is unofficial and has only a few makeshift markings; there is no formal path and the route is rough and challenging - make sure you read the challenge section.
Starting from Inverness (the end of the Great Glen Way) the Trail follows minor roads, pavements and sometimes overgrown paths to cross the Black Isle and head to Alness and then Tain in Easter Ross, before crossing the firth to the beautiful small town of Dornoch. It then becomes a coastal walk, first to Golspie and Brora, and takes to the increasingly spectacular clifftops to pass through Helmsdale, Dunbeath and Lybster en route for Wick. From Wick the cliffs continue until the broad sweep of Sinclair's Bay leads to Keiss, and a grand and majestic clifftop finale leads to Duncansby Head - the most northeasterly point of the UK mainland. John o' Groats is a short walk beyond.
The early stages of the route mostly follow minor roads and a variety of tracks and paths, but with some short stretches along the verge of busy roads. As it continues the route becomes increasingly challenging, with overgrown sections, boggy ground, unprotected cliff edges, rough tussocky terrain, occasional barbed wire fences to cross and burns or rivers to ford. The second half is particularly overgrown from July to October. The route is walkable but you must be prepared to face these obstacles and be able to navigate carefully. Volunteers from the Friends of the John o' Groats Trail - a charity - are working hard to improve the route, adding stiles, octagonal markers and some white paint splashes to aid navigation - but it's a challenging route.
|Stage 1: Inverness to Culbokie||24km||6 - 7 hours|
|Stage 2: Culbokie to Alness||14.75km||3½ - 4½ hours|
|Stage 3: Alness to Tain||21km||5 - 6 hours|
|Stage 4: Tain to Dornoch||14km||4 - 4½ hours|
|Stage 5: Dornoch to Golspie||22km||6½ - 7 hours|
|Stage 6: Golspie to Brora||10km||3 - 4 hours|
|Stage 7: Brora to Helmsdale||20.5km||5½ - 6½ hours|
|Stage 8: Helmsdale to Berriedale||14.5km||6 - 7 hours|
|Stage 9: Berriedale to Dunbeath||10.25km||4 - 4.5 hours|
|Stage 10: Dunbeath to Lybster||14.25km||5 - 6 hours|
|Stage 11: Lybster to Whaligoe||12km||5 - 5½ hours|
|Stage 12: Whaligoe to Wick||17.25km||5 - 6 hours|
|Stage 13: Wick to Keiss||17km||5 - 6 hours|
|Stage 14: Keiss to John o' Groats||21.5km||6 - 7 hours|
The John o' Groats Trail passes through several small towns and villages along its length, providing a variety of services and accommodation.
Culbokie is at the end of the first stage, and has a village shop and an inn.
Evanton offers shops (and accommodation) part way through the second stage. The stage end at Alness - and the next one at Tain - are both small towns with shops and both hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation.
The next four stages again all end in large villages / small towns with good facilities including shops - beautiful Dornoch, Golspie, Brora and Helmsdale all offering bed and breakfast and hotels; the latter also has a hostel.
The tiny village of Berriedale does not currently offer accommodation, but being on the A9 is linked by public transport - or you could ask your accommodation for the previous or following night if they would pick you up and drop you off here.
Dunbeath has a shop and bed and breakfast accommodation, whereas Lybster additionally has a hotel. There is a cafe at Whaligoe which offers accommodation.
Finally journey's end at John o' Groats has a hotel as well as bus links.
Inverness has a main rail station and excellent bus services; John o' Groats has a bus service.
All the stage start and end points have scheduled bus services; most of them are along or close to the A9 or A99. Additionally, Alness, Tain, Dornoch, Golspie, Brora, Helmsdale and Wick have railway stations.
Timetables for all the routes can be found on Traveline Scotland.