Scotland 2021: Wick

An account of my day in Wick near the end of my recent Scottish holiday.

We have reached the last full day of my Scottish holiday (May 28 – June 5th), the Friday which I spent in Wick (a mix up over booking times meant that I had an extra day in Scotland after we were supposed to leave the house in which we had been staying, having missed the first day, so I was booked into a hotel in Wick, from whence I was departing early on the Saturday morning).

ARRIVING IN WICK

I was dropped at the Norseman Hotel in Wick, where I would be staying overnight. Unfortunately it was far too early to check in, but fortunately I was able to deposit my larger bag at the hotel which meant that I had at least some freedom of movement.

ETYMOLOGICAL NOTE

Wick derives from Old Norse and means ‘bay’ in English. It is most often seen as a place name ending, with -wich, as in Norwich, an alternative version. The -vik of Narvik in northern Norway derives from the same root. The fact that Wick has no prefix indicates that when it was first settled it was the only bay in the area that was considered significant.

EXPLORING WICK

My explorations started by following the Wick River inland. This was a nice walk, with lots of bird life in evidence along the way. When I got to back to Wick I explored the town itself. I also took the opportunity to locate the railway station and make sure I knew how to get there the following morning. After a visit to a cafe I was finally able to check in to the hotel. In the event I did not head back out until the following morning, being very tired. The hotel room was perfectly pleasant, although the wifi connection that the hotel so wants its guests to know about proved to be rather unreliable.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I got lots of good pictures while in Wick…

Scotland 2021: Dunnet Head and St Mary’s Crosskirk

An account of the first part of Tuesday as I work through my Scottish holiday, from which I returned on Saturday just gone.

Welcome to the latest post in my account of my holiday in Scotland, from which I got home very late on Saturday (a combination of that, a long day of travel and poor internet connections at the hotel I stayed in on Friday are the reason I have not put a post up for a few days). Today I cover the first activities of the day after my birthday (See here for the main event of that day), when after a brunch we set off to visit Dunnet Head and the remains of St Mary Crosskirk, a 12th century chapel the burial ground of which is still very well preserved before going on a distillery tour in the afternoon.

DUNNET HEAD

Dunnet Head is the northernmost point of mainland Britain and is noted for its bird life, though I did not get to see much of the latter. There is an ordinance survey summit marker at the highest point of the head, a viewing area from which one can enjoy splendid sea views and a lighthouse designed by Robert Stephenson of the great engineering family which played a huge role in railway history (the novelist Robert Louis Stephenson was also of this family, being Robert of lighthouse fame’s grandson).

St Mary’s Crosskirk

The walk to access this ruin is in parts steep, including a staircase that looks more unpleasant to walk than it actually is. It also takes one past a wind farm, while there are some splendid views along the way. The chapel itself is missing its entire roof and part of its walls.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are some pictures from both attractions…

Scotland 2021: Wildlife Cruise

An account of a wildlife cruise on the afternoon of my birthday.

This post describes the main activity of the day of my birthday (Monday), a wildlife cruise. The route of the cruise was from John O’Groats harbour past Duncansby Head to Duncansby Stacks beyond and then back. There were a variety of sea birds on display, including guillemots, razor bills, shags and various breeds of gull. There are sometimes puffins in the area but I do not think we saw any that day. Also supposedly resident in these waters are seals and otters, but I saw neither. However it was a very enjoyable cruise.

OUTWARD BOUND

The walk to the harbour starts along an open road with no footpath before one comes to the path that leads to the John O’Groats hotel, at which point you can access various locations, including the harbour. We boarded the boat with no problems, and by the time we set out on the cruise it was very full.

Although there were some signs of life in the open water it was only when we got level with the head and then the stacks beyond (for an explanation of what a stack is in this context visit this article which explains how they form) that we saw creatures in huge number. The guillemots predominated (they look a little like tiny penguins, although unlike the Antarctic’s most famous bird they can fly), but a few razor bills were in evidence, as were a number of shags (they look similar to a cormorant).

The boat arrived back at the harbour and after waiting for things to clear a bit we made our way back on to terra firma.

HOMEWARD BOUND

We took an exploratory route home, attempting to locate a route back which would eliminate the main road. This was unsuccessful, and we reverted to the route we knew. My mother’s shoes were causing her trouble by this stage, so my father went to fetch the van to the point where the path joins the road and I accompanied my mother to that meeting point. The problems with the homeward walk notwithstanding it was a very enjoyable day.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have loads of photographs to go with this post and I hope you enjoy them:

Scotland 2021: Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

An account of a visit to a ruined castle that nowadays doubles as a wildlife haven.

On the morning of my birthday we travelled to Wick to do some essential shopping, and on the way back as a warm up act to the main event of the day, a wildlife cruise which I shall write about in due time we called in at the ruins of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.

RUIN AND WILDLIFE HAVEN

In it’s heyday this castle would have been an imposing sight (it was very obviously built to intimidate, and had little in the way of style), although its location is testament to the absence of any kind of field artillery – even Ballistae and scorpions as used by the Romans hundreds of years before it was built could have caused mayhem by targetting the rock formations around the castle and effectively subjecting those in the castle to a hail of rock fragments – in Scotland in that period. Nowadays it is an impressive ruin, and also home to many kinds of wildlife, both fauna and flora. There are some stunningly good views out over the sea. If you ever happen to be in this corner of Scotland it is worth a look, though it would not be the main event of one’s day.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My photographs begin with a few from before we got to the castle, cover the walk from the parking area to the castle and the castle itself:

Scotland 2021: John O’Groats

A look at John O’Groats and its environs – pics from my first full day of this Scottish sojourn.

This post looks at my first full day of this Scottish sojourn, and at a walk we did from John O’Groats to the beginning of Duncansby Head. Duncansby Head is most north-easterly point of the British mainland, while a few miles down the road is Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the British mainland.

THE END OF BRITAIN

Other than it’s geographical location John O’Groats itself has rather little to recommend it (the name derives from a 15th century Dutchman Jan de Groot – the dutch Groot being pronounced the same as groat, which way back when was a small silver coin worth fourpence), but the walk out towards Duncansby Head is interesting though rough in places. There is a lot of bird life in these parts that one would see no where else in Britain – birds that are mainly creatures of the arctic but which sometimes come south.

I chose some beers from the John O’Groats brewery (I opted for an oatmeal stout which in a quite dreadful pun is named ‘Deep Groat’).

Today as you will find has been much busier,but yesterday I was not fully recovered from being in transit for 23 hours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here some photographs from yesterday:

Watlington Wildlife

My write up of yesterday’s tour round Watatunga Wildlife Reserve near Watlington in Norfolk.

Watlington, just down the A10 from King’s Lynn, might seem like an unlikely place to see interesting wildlife, but it harbours a secret, accessed by means of an prepossessing looking gravel track that leads to a carpark and reception centre both of which are within eye- and earshot of the A10…

THE WATATUNGA
WILDLIFE RESERVE

This establishment, whose website has the strapline “Conservation Today for Wildlife Tomorrow” is explored by motorized buggy, which means that you need at least one person in your group to have a full driving license (also the walk from Watlington station would take some time and a lot of it is along a busy road with no footpath) and is home to a range of interesting species (birds and herbivorous mammals only).

Yesterday a number of us from NAS West Norfolk got to experience this. We used five four seater buggies and one six seater for our groups, with me sharing a buggy with our branch chair and her son. We had a guide who told us what could be seen. After a stretch along a sand track and then through a tunnel which was ankle deep in water we got to the reserve proper and we were not disappointed – lots of wonderful creatures were indeed on show.

After our arrival back at the reception area I got a lift back to the train station, arriving just in time to catch the 18:23 to King’s Lynn, meaning I was home just before seven.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Even with the difficulties imposed by being in a moving vehicle (with occasional stops, but strictly no getting out of the vehicle at any point) I got some splendid pictures: