Thursday, 15 October 2009

Falling off the edge

With much regret I left the fabulous north coast and its powerful waves, and headed south via John O'Groats (no relation). It's named, apparently, after Jan de Groot, one of three brothers given permission by James IV to run a ferry service to Orkney in 1496. Whether or not the ferry service cost a groat is open to conjecture.
You have to be careful when heading to the north east tip of Britain that you don't overrun and fall off the end.Travelling down the east coast from John O'Groats, the countryside slopes down towards the sea, so you feel as if you're travelling along the edge of the country and might at any moment topple over. I didn't, though, and made it safely to Sandend where, to my great surprise, there were decent, shoulder high waves. The great thing about paddling out among the monsters at Thurso is that by comparison, shoulder high waves seem small and safe. So I was very happy to fall off lots of them. Which I did.By the following day the swell had dropped a little, but so too had the wind. I foolishly set out to find slightly bigger waves, and trekked from Sandend over to Banff and down the long, steep hill to Gardenstown, a pretty fishing village with a rocky cove that might have an occasional wave, but was as flat as a mill pond. So back the way I came, past Banff again, over to Cullen and ending up, three hours, eighty miles and one delicious pie later, back where I had started.
On the plus side, the sun had come out and a dozen or so long-boarders and learners had all packed up, leaving the peak to me and one or two others. It was clean as a whistle and a lot of fun, and although it's cooler than up north (no gulf stream to warm the water), the sun made it positively Mediterranean!
Though it still takes an hour or two to get feeling back in your toes.

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