Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – #Cycling – Days 1 to 3…John o’Groats to Embo by Christine Campbell

Welcome to the series of Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:

Author Christine Campbell has given me permission to browse her extensive archives dating back to March 2013.  For this next post I am sharing the first leg of a trip that Christine and her family enjoyed in 2008 following in the tyre tracks of her husband if you follow this link it will take you to the full three day post Days 1-3.

If you are planning a tour of Scotland then you will find a great guide in the Cycling Directory

Day 1… Tuesday 20th May 2008… John o’Groats to Forsinard

‘Team Campbell’, comprising, in this instance, Gus, Aimee (younger daughter), Lucy (her friend) and me, drove up from Embo to John o’Groats on the A9/A879/A836 to check it out, hoping it would be a better road than the A9/A99 coast road which we knew to be a pretty dangerous road for cyclists, there being soft-verge run-offs for lorries on the steeper descents! Never a good sign!!

Gus decided that the A897 back down from near Thurso to Helmsdale was a much safer road although considerably longer. Remembering that this venture is an endurance event rather than a sprint, we decided that would be the better choice.

Aimee and Lucy were with us because they were to meet up with Andy (second oldest son) and Michelle (his wife) and the children in Thurso, Thurso having the reputation for some of the best surfing waves in the world! In 2006, Thurso hosted the world championships.

The family wanted to check it out, hoping to catch a few like these waves

surf 1

The run up was beautiful: sunshine all the way. The gorse is in full flower just now, lending wonderful richness to the hills and lanes. And the smell! Sumptuous coconut butter!

After we had lunched all together in Thurso’s Tesco… a BIG mistake… it was dreadful: little choice and no taste, Gus and I headed for John o’Groats.

John o’Groats (Taigh Iain Ghrot in Scottish Gaelic) is a small coastal village scattered over a large area, mainly a rural farming community, and has the distinction of being the northerly end of the longest distance between two points on the British mainland. The surrounding area is windswept and unspoilt, with views across the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands six miles away.

A mound near the John o’Groat’s House Hotel marks the site where Jan de Groot, a Dutchman, who settled here in about 1489, built a house that became famous. It was octagonal in shape, being one room with eight windows and eight doors, one for each of his seven sons and himself and an eight-sided table to stop the arguements over who was to sit at the head of the table.

The present House or Hotel, was built in 1875 but fell into disrepair, being empty since the mid-1990s.

J O'G house c1895

John O'Groats House Hotel

It is now undergoing a huge renovation. The first picture is an impression of how it looked in 1875 and the second one is from about 1990 or so and is how it looked when we were there on this trip in 2008.



No comments, please, about how we’ve changed since our Youth Hostelling days!

So, Gus set off at 3pm from John o’Groats in fine weather and good form, taking the A836 through Huna, Mey, Dunnet, Castletown to Thurso. I followed after a little browsing in the gift shops and the pottery in J o’G, passing Gus on the road just past Dunnet Head. Dunnet Head near John O’Groats

Dunnet Head near John O'Groats

Unfortunately for them, it was a delightfully calm day up there… so no waves!

They seemed to have had a nice day anyway, in and around Thurso and on the beach.


Gus joined us in time to have a cuppa with us in the surfers’ tearoom before he continued cycling the remainder of the 37 miles he was doing along the north coast of Scotland, the ‘roof’ of Britain, past Dounreay Power station, through Reay, turning left onto the A897, heading South at last just before Melvich. Glorious weather, glorious scenery. I know because I followed him in the car, of course, but later… after the girls and I drove back to Dunnet Bay to walk on the beach,



…just down from this gorgeous, newly-built dry-stone wall with wee nooks in it and wildflowers growing in its shelter.



This was pretty too, written in rope. Clever! 11 We even paddled in the delightfully warm water. Warm, compared to the water of the North Sea at Embo!

Meanwhile, Gus worked his way down through Strath Halladale, the river running beside him, sparkling in the sunshine, past isolated farms and cottages and the totally remote Trantlemore Cemetery, filled with chess-piece style memorial stones, incongruous in the pretty countryside.


Eventually, Aimee, Lucy and I caught up with him, “Whoo, whoo, whooing!” loudly with the windows down. I’m sure he just loves when his back-up team do that! It must be SO encouraging!

He only had about seven or eight miles to go, but we stopped anyway to ask if he needed anything, which he claimed he didn’t, which is just as well since we’d been too busy swanning around Dunnet Head to offer much support for the most part of the day.

However, after we had continued on for a few miles, he had a change of heart and phoned, mobile to mobile, to ask us to come back with his cycling coat and warm trousers since the sun was going down and he was getting extremely cold. We did that, passing him again with a great deal more, “Whoo, whoo, whooing!”

So nice for him!

We drove on, singing along to the music we were playing rather loudly in the car while Gus had to content himself with his own, unaccompanied, singing. His progress may have been more dignified, but we reckoned ours was more fun!

It had been a day of delightful scenery, quiet roads, gentle hills and reasonable road surfaces though no cycle paths.

Finally, we all met up at Forsinard, which was not much more than a hotel and a tiny railway station with a Society for the Protection of Birds visitor centre attached to it. Fascinating! This was our chosen destination for day one and we ensconced ourselves in the local hotel for tea and sandwiches.


On the way back to Embo we passed this cute little blue house and literally hundreds of wild deer by the side of the road. Apparently, there are herds of them, numbering about 500 in all, roaming the area. They come down in the evenings to graze by the river, which runs beside the road.


Total cycling mileage for the day… 50 miles.

Total so far from John o’Groats… 50 miles.

©Christine Campbell 2016

A selection of books by Christine Campbell.

One of the recent reviews for A Mountain of Memories

Part history lesson, part mystery, part romance with a dose of psychology, A Mountain of Memories is captivating from the moment the reader meets Caitlin. Through a series of twists and turns in present time, to flashbacks of terrifying events, and a view into early 20th century rural Scotland, the author tells a story that begs to be read in a single setting.

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Christine on Goodreads:

About Christine Campbell

Christine Campbell lives in a small village outside of Edinburgh with her husband, whatever assortment of children and grandchildren happen to be visiting at the time, and awaiting her first great-granddaughter. How exciting is that?

When she has a moment of peace, and is not distracted by the varied wildlife currently taking up residence in her garden and the field beyond, Christine writes novels or posts on her blog at as well as producing occasional videos about her writing on her Facebook page and YouTube.

So busy, busy, busy writing for your pleasure and hers – because, let’s face it, writing is fun!

Connect to Christine

Blog :
Facebook :
Goodreads :
Twitter :
Instagram :

My thanks to Christine for permitting me to browse her archives and I hope you will head over to her blog and do some browsing of your own..

19 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – #Cycling – Days 1 to 3…John o’Groats to Embo by Christine Campbell

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up -Herbie Hancock, Gems from Your Archives and Talkative Parrots. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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