Posts Tagged ‘John O’Groats’

A postcard from me

November 13, 2015

By 1970 I had finished my training and was about to commence work. I had become engaged to be married and we, my fiancée and I, headed off to tour Scotland by train, bus and ship. We had planned an itinerary that would get us to most places accessible by rail and had included a ferry ride up Loch Lomond and also from Mallaig to Kyle of Lochalsh. We also got to the station most distant from London, at Wick and used a bus to get from there to John o’ Groats. I clearly felt I should send my Dad a postcard from this far flung location and here it is.


And here’s the very short message.


So, this was written on 21st August 1970 and postmarked John o’ Groats the next day. I have hidden the address for members of the family still inhabit that area although not the same house.

I see it cost 4d to send a stamp then, just a few months before February 1971 when the UK adopted a decimal currency. The stamp is a Scottish issue one.

Dad had recently remarried, after the death of my mother in 1967 so obviously, his new wife was included in the recipients.

If anybody thinks I was niggardly with the information sent home to Dad be assured that other cards sent have so much small writing crammed on to them that I can barely read them.

John o’ Groats Bus

January 28, 2014

As a happy nerd, I rather like the extreme edges of the land. John o’ Groats, however, causes just a tad of irritation. Urban or indeed rural myth has it that John o’ Groats is the most northerly point on the UK mainland. That’s just plain wrong. Dunnet Head, a few miles to the west, is a couple of miles further north and holds that distinction. John ‘o Groats is a pleasant enough little place where a little harbour was created by a Dutchman called Jan de Groote back in 1496. He ran a ferry to Orkney, some 6 miles away across the Pentland Firth.

However, John o’ Groats holds the imagination of most tourists. They feel it is a place they should visit- and indeed, I have, but only the once and that as long ago as 1970. And here’s a none too good photo of me, taken that year, to prove it.


Yes, the weather was awful!

More recently, in 2004, we were heading to Orkney, using the ferry from Scrabster, which is near Thurso, to Stromness. In Thurso I spotted a bus heading for John o’ Groats and snapped a picture.


From my 1970 memories, I’d have loved it to have been a Macbrayne’s bus, an old Bedford with a big rounded snout, holding the engine in front of the driving position.  We have seen one more recently, preserved on the wonderful island of South Uist (click here). Looking back, this is probably very much an equivalent vehicle in terms of antiquity. The registration plate letter of ‘B’ tells me that this bus dates from 1984/85 so was all but twenty years old when I saw it. I’m not sufficient of a bus nerd to be able to tell you anything about the bus except that the operator was clearly called Highland.

By the way, it is still possible to travel by passenger (not car) ferry from John o’ Groats to Orkney. I’m told a very good day tour can be had.


The John O’Groats Coach

June 9, 2013

I commented recently that John O’Groats isn’t the most northerly or indeed the most remote spot in the north of Scotland. However, it’s the place that people in the South of England have heard of. Somewhere there’s a photo of me leaning on the sign for the place. But here we have a coach, from the south of England, that was on its way to John O’Groats.


It belonged to the Southdown company and if I had a favourite bus company it was Southdown. The photo dates from 1970 and is in Edinburgh, but my liking of Southdown probably stems from two or perhaps three things. Thing one was that in my home town of Crawley, we were at a Southdown outpost. As far as I recall, in my youth just the one Southdown service, to and from Brighton, ran to Crawley. It gave them that bit of rarity value. Then there was the influence of camp holidays. From camp we could see the Southdown bus making its way between Brighton and Eastbourne. Just down the road I felt my Great Aunt – a Southdown parcels agent, might be dealing with a delivery on the bus. Thirdly, and as a nerd I hardly like saying this, but I liked that leaf green colour.

I recall that I was amused and pleased to find a Southdown so far from home territory and with much further to go yet.

As a nerd I am quite embarrassed at how little I know about coaches. But I found a man who does know (or at least, his web page) so I can tell you that this is a Leyland Leopard chassis with a Harrington Cavalier body built on it. It dates from 1961 or 62 and was sold by Southdown in 1972.