VanLifeDiaries: John o’Groats to Durness.

Last time we left off we were enjoying the sites (and food!) of John O’groats in the most North-easterly corner of the British mainland! We woke from our spot at Duncansby Head and made our way towards the Castle of Mey. This castle was saved from ruin by the Queen Mother in 1952 and continued to remain her summer residence away from the public eye for the rest of her days. Prince Charles still visits his grandmothers castle annually in early August for a stay.

The Castle of Mey

The castle, in all its grandeur, is kept as it was in the days that the Queen mother lived there. I unfortunately missed out on the inside tour but bought my ticket to the gardens and grounds instead from the visitor centre. A £6.50 ticket gets you this and access to the animal centre, great for kids!

The lovely walled garden.

The walled garden, a tucked away secret kept within the Great Wall of Mey, is alive with flowers, vegetable patches, fruit trees and buzzing bees. I found so many beautiful spots where you can picture the Queens mum to have sat and admired her garden. There are a few great picture points also with the castle as the backdrop.

The East garden was so mysterious!

I also visited the East Garden, while not as hard worked on as the walled garden with its various flowers and plants, it had a very enchanting feel to it. It definitely reminded me of the movie The Secret Garden. The gate just felt like it was inviting me in. I lost myself for a while as I imagined what the castle and gardens would have been like way back then.

After leaving Sam in the van for a while I headed back after returning my head from the clouds and we made our way to Dunnet Head, the most northern tip of the U.K with sweeping views of Penrith Firth. Back in the days of WWII soldiers used this spot as a vantage point and some of the battlements were even peppered with bullets by a German Fighter plane. Luckily no one was injured but this would’ve been a lonely spot to be posted, no matter how lovely the views.

Panorama shot up at Dunnet Head . The most northern tip of the Britain mainland.

We continued along the A836 towards Castletown and all the way to Thurso. Thurso takes you by surprise by the size of it since most of the other towns since Wick have been minuscule in comparison. The tourist information centre/museum is good to visit!

A short while after Thurso we found ourselves marveling at Bettyhill a gorgeous hilly town nestled by the sea with a single track road. Visit Farr beach if you can find a place to park.

As you round the bend you’ll see the giant Ben Loyal as you get into Tongue. Strange name I know but very lovely place. The views as you take the road that swings you back around are indescribable. Honestly I have no words for it. It’s just one of those things you must experience yourself.


As we enjoyed every little thing the spectacular Northern coast of the highlands had to offer we were beginning to become weary as we closed into Durness, our spot for the next couple of nights!

We emailed ahead to James at Sango Sands Caravan and Campsite and he invited us to take a look! James and his team were welcoming and very accommodating. The whole thing was taken care of and within minutes we had found our perfect spot!

We bloody loved the view at Sango Sands!

Sango Sands is a must stay spot with its breathtaking views of the ocean from practically the whole park. We found the wide range of facilities including campers kitchen, dishwashing area, shower blocks and toilets to be well looked after. In off peak season when the site is quiet they offer free camping and believe me this is a spot you want to camp if you are one!

A rainbow even came out for us!

We ate dinner at the Sango Sands Oasis lounge which was a lovely way to end a day of driving. There is even a cute little window you can buy take away icecream from. Of course we did! In June 2017 they are adding a whole new shower block to accommodate for the busy summer period! Make sure you book in advance this is a popular stop.
Prices are £8 per person a night, add £4 for electric hook-up. 1st child is £6, 2nd is £3 and 3rd is free. Pets are free! Book now!
Just down the road from Sango Sands you have Smoo Cave. A cool spot to adventure down the pathway for a photo stop and a look inside the cave to where the waterfall gushes. They do tours inside the cave for a deeper look but they were closed down for the day due to high winds!

Waterfall inside Smoo cave

As we said a reluctant goodbye to Sango Sands we went only a few minutes down the road to Cocoa Mountain, the place is famous on the route for the best hot chocolate in the Highlands! We weren’t disappointed, they were so huge and so delicious! The brownie was yummy too, extra treat right there if you’re a chocoholic like me.

the BEST hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain

Join us next time as we make our way down the West coast of the NC500 route to find our next spot to wild camp!

Sunrise at Sango Sands caravan and campsite

Sam, Kirsten and Esméralda x (beep beep)

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5 thoughts on “VanLifeDiaries: John o’Groats to Durness.

  1. Really enjoying your blogs i am currently planning a trip for next May on NC500 from Inverness anti clockwise and can’t wait to hear more about your adventures as you travel on down the West Coast.

    Like

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