Day 102 – Journey’s end: Wick to John O’Groats

The final day. I woke up feeling very excited and looking forward to the finish line. I was on my way by 9am, and was hopeful I would be able to get off the A99 for a good portion of the walk. The day was warm and the traffic north of Wick was much lighter; after my now-customary first two miles hobbling while stiff muscles warmed up, I strode purposefully along smiling at everyone I encountered.
After walking through the outskirts of Wick (fields one side, light industry and Tesco’s on the other), I turned off the road and headed hopefully towards the sea. After wandering down a muddy lane, I found the access road to Ackergill Tower. This wasn’t the ruined pile I expected, but an imposing and dramatic fortified house on the edge of the sea. I was able to walk down past the house and onto the beach through a gate in the garden wall. I breathed a happy sigh of relief at the prospect of walking the beach for the next few miles up to Keiss. For a while, everything was lovely; peaceful waves lapping the shore, the odd seabird wheeling overhead, and a few dog-walkers. Unfortunately, none of the blogs I’d read mentioned that the river mouth halfway up the beach was (2 hours from high tide) too deep to ford. Disaster! I ended up having to trek across the golf course and through a couple of fields to get onto the A99; by the time I’d crossed the river it seemed easier and simpler to just stay on the road.
Fortunately by this time the sun was out and I had beautiful blue skies. I tried hard to ignore my achy feet and concentrate on just walking to the next signpost or waypoint. The miles ticked slowly by, but I was impatient to reach John O’Groats and found it hard to stay patient.
After what seemed like a very long way, I eventually made it up to the crest of Warth Hill, and there it was: the end of the land, with the sea and the Orkney islands beyond. I could see the houses of John O’Groats and the lighthouse at Duncansby Head beyond, but it was the sight of the sea that really brought it home. I’d walked from one end of the country to the other. Even though the walk wasn’t finished, it was an overwhelming moment, and although I didn’t break down completely in tears of exhaustion and joy it was a close call.
Although the finish, and the famous signpost, are down at the pier at John O’Groats, the most north-easterly point is actually Duncansby Head, about 2 miles further on. I’d already decided to walk there first, and then to head back to my hotel and the signpost afterwards, and that is what I did. I reached Duncansby at about 5:30pm, and sat on the grass near the lighthouse for a bit looking at the sea. I had expected to feel a surge of triumph, achievement, exhilaration, but in fact what I felt was a sense of immense calm. I’d spent all these days and weeks and months walking, and now here I was, at the end of the End to End. Mission accomplished. Now what?

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9 thoughts on “Day 102 – Journey’s end: Wick to John O’Groats

  1. Now what? Well, in about three months – after the foot pains and morning stiffness subside, after the corns and callouses soften, after your clothes stop hanging loosely from your frame – you’ll be visited by seductive flashbacks of people, places, and events you experienced this summer. Walkers have strong legs, but weak memories. You’ll remember all the good parts, but forget the pain and exhaustion. You’ll crave another long walk, that’s what. The fact that you raised the question proves the addiction.

    Congratulations, and welcome to the club. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  2. Many congratulations on a great achievement, Leonie. Like others who have commented, I will miss the blog! Your walk has provided me with additional impetus for my planned attempt next year. It was a pleasure meeting you all on your way up and I hope to be able, perhaps, to meet up again at some point for some additional tips now that you have successfully completed the adventure! All the best for your re-integration into a rather different daily routine!

  3. Well done! You should be very very proud of yourself. And thanks for the blog – I’ve enjoyed reading snippets and will keep it as a reference to places I’ll be visiting for the future.
    Enjoy living in a house again!

  4. Congratulations on making it! I had forgotten to check up on where you were for a while (it stopped cross-posting to facebook for some reason) so I was happy this morning when I checked to see that you had got there. I was worried for a while about you finishing around the time of your almost-stress-fracture but its great to see you finished. Well done, awesome job!!

  5. Hi Leonie,
    I have followed your Blog from start to finish without ever making a comment (although maybe some encouragement from me should have been forthcoming). Nevertheless, I would like to congratulate you on your marvellous achievement and for sharing your memories via your well written entries.
    I have every intention of doing LEJOG very soon, all being well and your journey can only serve to inspire. A pat on the back for yourself and your family, you should be very proud.
    All the best and kindest regards
    Rob

  6. I have been reading the blog every day, feeling a bit of your pain, of your energy, of your humour, of your good days and also your bad days… Thank you for sharing this incredible experience. I just can say, BRAVO Leonie, BRAVO!

  7. Hi we met at a village near Bakewell in Derbyshire outside the pub my wife and I would like to say congratulations on your achievement and we hope you have found in yourself what you were searching for well done

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