Keen to widen their travel horizons and experience a true taste of Scotland, Lauren and Hannah from our Concierge Team recently headed to one of our most iconic landmarks. We caught up with them both, to find out more on their Highland adventure...
"So, what should we pack when travelling to the most northerly part of Scotland, we thought?
Walking boots, warm clothes, gloves, hat - checking the forecast, it looked like rain the entire weekend, however when we pulled up at our John O'Groats hideaway, we were greeted with glorious sunshine (in Scotland, in February - we must be dreaming!). The warm light peeked over on the lodge as we awoke the next day, (still a chilly 4 degrees) however, it didn’t dampen our excitement to get out and see this fantastic part of the world. After our late arrival from Inverness the night before, we had arrived into total darkness, so our first real view of the location was of the amazing coastline from the panoramic glass windows in the lodge. It was such a peaceful setting to sit and relax, planning our day whilst we made breakfast in the lodge with the items from our delicious welcome hamper.
To start the day, we were greeted by Stacey (On-site Manager) who gave us a fascinating tour around the old John O’Groats Inn, exploring each of the luxury apartments and the fantastic views they have right out onto the coast (our favourite had to be the Jan De Groot Penthouse with the copper freestanding tub!)
With so much to do in the area, we were eager to get out and start exploring. First up, following the narrow road from our lodge to the Duncansby Lighthouse and on to the Stacks. After a short drive along the coast, we had reached our destination and the sound of the waves and wildlife were just breathtaking - to be away from the hustle and bustle of Manchester city centre, just staring out at the views over the Pentland Firth towards Hoy and Stroma was unforgettable. Pulling on our walking boots, we made our way down to the dramatic Stacks - an epic photo opportunity and definitely one for the bucket list.
Next on the list was a stop at Dunnet Beach - wow! We could not believe that we were still in Scotland! This is one of the most stunning beaches either of us has visited and once there, it was easy to imagine balmy days during the summer months, watching surfers on the waves and tucking into Highland picnic. We both loved the peace and tranquility so much, that we are already planning to come back with the children next time and spend all day relaxing at the beach!
Time for a well-deserved drink after our morning of exploring the coast - we decided to pop in to see Libby at Dunnet Bay Distilleries (home to Rock Rose Gin) for a tour behind the scenes. If you are a gin lover then this is a must. In high season, we recommend to book in advance as the tours are very popular and having tasted the gin we can see why. We sampled the new grapefruit gin and grass vodka (not forgetting to purchase some for our loved ones back home!).
What an amazing first day, full of adventure - however, as the sun set, we were looking forward to heading back to the lodge and stoking our log-burning fire and toasting our toes. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the northern lights that night - we checked the handy Aurora Watch app but unfortunately it was not to be, the sky was still so clear however that the stars were like beacons over the tops of the lodges.
Well rested from the most peaceful night's sleep, we took a stroll around John O’Groats itself, walking along the coastal paths from the Inn, hoping to see some wildlife (at this point we reminded ourselves again to come back in the summer months to hop abord one of the many whale-watching and seal-spotting boat trips!). We took our picture with the iconic sign post after our morning walk beore heading into the Storehouse Café for some breakfast. We sat by the fire looking out on the views and tucked into tasty treats with a Starbucks coffee. Once full, we wandered around the wee local shops in John O'Groats and picked up some souvenirs (we highly recommend the Tablet and Shortbread!).
THE JOURNEY HOME
As we were only North for a flying visit, we set off back towards Inverness airport shortly after, settling in to our scenic 3-hour journey down the North Coast 500. We were once again amazed by the fantastic weather and the views on the drive back were so picturesque. Needing a small diversion, we stopped at the Old Pulteney Distillery in Wick to sample some of their finest Whiskey. We opted for a tour round this spectacular distillery and found the secrets to how their whiskey tastes so good. A little further on, we stopped for a spot of lunch overlooking the small fishing harbour that the town is so known for at Wickers World - a lovely little family run café.
Driving back along the coast we also managed to call in at Dunrobin Castle - it really is worth a visit, the grounds are simply stunning and you really feel like you are back in the early 1300’s. The on-site museum is outstanding, with all of the original displays of the castle - it really is a remarkable place to visit and was a great ending to our travels.
Back at Inverness Airport, we waved goodbye to Scotland before immediately starting to plan our next trip! As part of the Together Travel Concierge Team, we feel lucky to arrange stays at these beautiful lodges for guests from all over the world, and our overjoyed that we finally got to go and experience it for ourselves!"