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Scotland

John O’Groats Trail – Stage 1 – Inverness to Helmsdale – 7 Nights

April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct£959 pp

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SUMMARY

John O’Groats Trail – Stage 1 – Inverness to Helmsdale – 7 Nights

No. of People: 1

PAYMENT

PAY TODAY £

TOTAL £999

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This is a 233km (145 mile) walking trail from the city of Inverness to John O’Groats at the ‘end of the road’.  The first section takes you from Inverness to Helmsdale – experiencing an area rich in history with castles, monuments and some of the finest beaches on the east coast of Scotland.

 

Quick Facts

  • 7 nights’ accommodation
  • 7 days’ walking
  • Guidebook and map provided
  • Daily door to door luggage transfers
  • 24hr on call assistance during your walk if necessary
  • Approx. 130km (80miles) and 1150m (3700ft) of ascent
  • Road, beach/shoreline, cliff-top, fields, woods and moorland walking

About & Details

John O’Groats is a small coastal village situated at the top of mainland Scotland. Although it isn’t the most northerly point of mainland Scotland – you’ll need to travel 14 miles west to Dunnet Head to reach the most northly point – it is the most northerly inhabited point and known as the ‘end of the road’. John O’Groats from an adventurer’s point of view, is maybe best known for its John O’Groats to Lands’ End walking and cycling challenges, the first walk being recorded in 1871. This trail has been developed as part of the first/final section of that challenge, allowing for a more scenic route and less busy road walking.

Some of the walking is challenging, in that it is along cliff tops, which at times can be very narrow, and hazardous if there is a strong wind, with steep drops, so not recommended if you don’t have a good head for heights. There have been bridges, stiles and gates built to make the trail more accessible, but in places, there are fences and stiles, sometimes with barbed wire on top, to cross, so care needs to be taken. The trail has now been marked out with octagonal arrows, but the paths are not always clear. There will be burns to be crossed where bridges have not been erected, but unless there has been a lot of rain, shouldn’t be too difficult to cross. The good news is, the Coastal Road is never far away, giving you options on which sections to walk.

The views, wildlife and heritage will be with you all the way. Learn about the history of the area, remember you are walking a natural route that has connected coastal settlements for centuries. Look out for the seals and dolphins and the plethora of sea birds. The guidebook suggests taking your time on this trail!

Although this trip is based on 2 people sharing, if you are a solo traveller, please contact us for further details and we will be happy to help. You will need full walking kit including waterproof jacket and trousers, a comfortable day sack and comfortable walking boots. You will receive a more detailed kit list upon booking. We take the stress out of your trip with expert local knowledge, hand-picked accommodation, luggage transfers and detailed support to help you find your way.

Inclusions

  • 7 nights’ accommodation in good quality B&Bs or hotels with ensuite or private bathroom and breakfast
  • Luggage transfers each walking day (1 x bag per person, max. weight limit 20kg)
  • Map and guide book plus detailed directions to your accommodation from the trail
  • Expert local knowledge and 24 hour emergency assistance during your trip
  • Professional event organisation
Exclusions
  • Travel to the start and finish points of the trip
  • Lunches and evening meals
  • Personal insurance (for cancellation, accident, health, emergency evacuation and loss, theft of or damage to baggage and personal effects)
  • Guiding (please contact us if you would like this trip to be guided)

Optional extras

  • Single room supplement £90 per person per night (subject to availability)
  • Solo traveller supplement £90 per person per night
  • Odd number group supplement £90 per group per night may apply if a single room is required
  • Extra night prior to the start (single room) £180 per person
  • Extra night prior to the start (twin room, needs 2 people) £95 per person
  • Extra night at the end of the event (single room) £180 per person
  • Extra night at the end of the event (twin room, needs 2 people) £95 per person

Please select from Optional Extras at checkout.

Getting there and back

Getting there:

By road: Inverness is situated approx. 158 miles north of Edinburgh, just off the A9.

By public transport: There are regular trains to Inverness from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Check traveline.info for the latest public transport information.

By air: There are flights from Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports to Inverness Airport with a shuttle bus into the city centre.

Getting back:

By road: Helmsdale is easily accessed from the A9, which links you up to Inverness and Perth down the east side of Scotland.

By public transport: There is a direct train to Inverness from Helmsdale, from here there are good transport links for onwards travel.  Alternatively, a bus service runs in the area and links Helmsdale to Inverness –  Bus times for X99.  Check traveline.info for the latest public transport information.

By air: There are flights from Inverness Airport with a shuttle bus from the city centre to Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.

Evening meals and lunches

You can purchase evening meals either at the accommodation or nearby. When our event planners send you the schedule with your itinerary you could prearrange directly with the accommodation or during the walk.

For lunches we would suggest bringing some of your own favourite snack bars and then asking the accommodation for a packed lunch for the following day and also supplementing that at stops en-route.

Accommodation

Accommodation is generally at B&B, guest houses and small hotels. Once booked in, your event planner will send you a list of your booked accommodation. It is possible to adjust according to preference at this stage so please mention it if you wish to change.

Dog-friendly

If you would like to bring your four legged friend, then we will do our best to source dog friendly accommodation. It is usually possible but if it were not, then we would suggest a change of date to enable it or offer a refund. There may be a small surcharge for the overnight stays. Therefore, once booked in, please alert your event planner that you would like to bring your dog and we can proceed from there.

Need a guide?

If you would prefer to have a guide for your walk, even just for one day, then we are happy to help. We can provide a qualified leader (also first aid qualified) to lead your trek or on just one of the sections. Just ask us.
A guide can not only take the stress out of navigation, but you will also find them a great asset in terms of providing an insight into all things environment and nature.

Dates and prices

For available dates please see the ‘book now’ option on the left hand side on desktops or at the bottom on mobiles. You can reserve your space via this route.

After you book

After placing your booking with us, you will in the first instance receive an automated email from our system confirming receipt of your reservation. If you don’t receive it, it is worth checking your spam/clutter folder.

In the process of placing your booking, you will generally set up an access password to our online gateway where you can review the details of the booking.

Your personal event planner will then be in touch with you to start to confirm the details. This contact will usually be taken up in the working day after receipt of your booking, but may, in busy times, take a little longer. The event planner will then liaise with you regarding the details of the course. If you have any specific requirements, please do mention it at this stage.

At the end of your trip

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end at some point and when you arrive at the end of the trail, you have one of several options. If you have not booked an additional night’s stay then we can transfer your luggage to a location of your choice. From there you may have onward travel arranged as per the ‘Getting There and Back’ tab above.

Some people like to treat themselves to a night’s stay at the end. And why not? You’ve earned it.  You can arrange this as an optional add on with your event planner.

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Itinerary

  • Day 1 - Arrive in Inverness

    Arrive at your overnight accommodation in Inverness.

  • Day 2 – Inverness to Culbokie

    Make you way to Inverness Castle and look for the end of the Great Glen Way stone monument. Welcome to the start of the John o’ Groats Trail! You leave Inverness, following the banks of the River Ness towards the Kessock Bridge. After crossing the Kessock Bridge, you head up through the forest, not quite summiting Ord Hill (191m), continuing on through the forest to the village of Munlochy. From here, there is an opportunity to visit the Munlochy Clootie Well before mainly road walking along quiet lanes to Culbokie for your overnight stay.

    25km (15.5 miles), 450m (1476ft) of ascent

  • Day 3 – Culbokie to Alness

    From Culbokie, you will cross the A9 causeway over the Cromarty Firth, with care. Most of the walking will be along quiet roads and cycle paths, through farms, villages and woods. Just past the small village of Evanton, keep looking to your left towards Cnoc Fyrish (453m) for the monument representing the Gate of Negapatam, Madras, India. You continue onward to the town of Alness, where you will stay for the night.

    15km (9 miles), 70m (230ft) of ascent

  • Day 4 – Alness to Tain

    Your walk today will be on a mix of quiet roads and forest trails. Make sure you make the most of the views through the clearings, they are definitely worth it. Keep looking for a barn with a waterwheel when you’ve passed Scotsburn Farm. As you come into the town of Tain, named after the river, that runs through it, enjoy the interesting and unusual buildings and take some time to explore the hidden-away corners.

    21km (13.5 miles), 240m (787ft) of ascent

  • Day 5 – Tain to Dornoch

    Today, your walk will be from Tain, north towards Dornoch. Before you cross the Dornoch Firth Bridge, take the opportunity to visit the Glenmorangie Distillery. Once on the bridge, make the most of the views over the Firth. The day will be spent walking quiet lanes and forestry trails. You will stay in the town of Dornoch for the night, giving an opportunity to enjoy a stroll along the golden sand beaches, a visit to its Cathedral and to learn about the history of the Witch’s Stone.

    14km (9 miles), 70m (230ft) of ascent

  • Day 6 - Dornoch to Golspie

    A cliff top walk or a sandy beach, is the first choice for your walk today before joining the dismantled railway line, bypassing Embo. As you continue following the railway line, keep your eyes open, northwards, for the Duke of Sutherland Monument on Ben Bhraggie (397m). When you get to the road, you will see the remains of Skelbo Castle. The next section takes you along the road, with amazing views across Loch Fleet before picking up the railway line again for a short stretch. Crossing over The Mound, head for Balblair Wood, before arriving at a track signed as ‘Coastal Route to Littleferry’. From here, you head towards Golspie, either through the dunes along the beach or a more inland path. You will spend tonight in Golspie.

    22km (14 miles), 70m (230ft) of ascent

  • Day 7 – Golspie to Brora

    Coastal walking is the order of the day, passing Dunrobin Castle, the ancestral home of Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. This 189 roomed mansion is still inhabited and sections of it date back to 1275. Soon after the castle, you will see the ruin of Dun Liath broch, a well-preserved iron-age structure dating back 2000 years, and with a short detour, can be visited. There are two path options now, but it is easier to keep to the pebbly shore. When you see a grassy path appearing above the shoreline, take that, and you will soon arrive in Brora for your overnight stay.

    10km (6 miles), 60m (197ft) of ascent

  • Day 8 - Brora to Helmsdale

    Another choice awaits you today of path or beach walking, depending on the tide. There will be burns to cross, sometimes by steppingstones, sometimes by bridge and at least one, Loth Burn by wading! The walking underfoot will be rocky and uneven in places and is mostly waymarked into Helmsdale. Celebrate your achievement, you’ve completed the first section of the John O’Groats Trail!

    20km (12 miles), 190m (623ft) of ascent

Notes

Please note: This itinerary is a guide only. Timings and mileages are approximate.

We will always endeavour to accommodate you in the locations detailed in the above itinerary. Due to very high demand, some accommodation providers may occasionally have limited availability and so we may need to accommodate you in an alternative location, nearby. In this case, we will arrange a taxi transfer for you to take you from the trail to your accommodation and back again the following morning. An additional charge may be payable. We will notify you of this when confirming your booking

The Route
Reviews

Find some of the reviews our wonderful customers have left for us below, or read them all here!

Heather Parr
3 months ago

Maximum Adventure exceeded expectations, planning a trip for me last minute and off season through the glorious Lake District. The hotels were top rate, as was the food and my daily gluten free sandwich. Nathalie got the route guide sent to me in a couple of days and the baggage service was impeccable. It was the only tour guide company that responded immediately to my last minute request. Looking forward to more adventures with your company!!!

Chris Evans
3 months ago

David and I walked the Speyside Way in September 2023 and very much enjoyed the adventure. Maximum Adventure Ltd organised our nightly accommodation and uplifting of our luggage in a seamless manner, which made the whole trip so easy with no stress. This is the second time that I have personally used Maximum Adventures Ltd and I would recommend them to others as they offer a friendly and efficient service.

Göte Fredriksson
4 months ago

We realy appreciated the tour we did on Hadrians Wall path in May.Beautiful scenery, decent weather, god arrangements including lodging, transport, bagagehandling etc. We came well prepared . In this preparation Maximum adventures gave us great support, as we are coming from abroad with no knowledge of conditions on the path. We had great BnBs and could concentrate on de daily walks that gave us great pleasure.Thank you England and Hadrians Wall path for your friendly reception and well mantained walking path.Thank you Maximum Adventures for your good service.We would love to come back in the future.

Jerry Kashinski
4 months ago

Maximum Adventure did a great job for us. With less than a month's notice, it set up an itinerary, lodging and luggage porterage for a walk from Carlisle to Newcastle, England along Hadrian's Wall. The lodging was fantastic, as was the itinerary and support during the walk. We'd definitely use Maximum Adventure again and would recommend them without reservation!

Fiona Reilly
5 months ago

I was part of a climb on 23/09, didn't think I would make ut, but I did. The descent was a different story.. I got jelly legs and lost my confidence. If it wasn't for James, my Sherpa would never have made it. Can't thank him enough, Will, met you briefly.Both of them were very knowledgeable, we had the most amazing views at the summit...the pain is still worth it and

Tom Graham
5 months ago

I walked the West Highland Way with my dad and brother. The organisation was excellent by Samantha. Itinerary and instructions were clear and all the bookings and luggage transfers went smoothly. As a result we were able to ensure the fantastic walk and not worry about anything. I would happily recommend Maximum Adventure to others.

Sarah Bracken
5 months ago

Absolutely brilliant guide - knowledgeable, interesting and humorous in addition to looking after our safety so well - making sure we ate and suggesting when to layer up! Would highly recommend!

Diana Straub
6 months ago

We just got home from our 8-days Hadrian's Wall hike and we just loved it!Everything was perfectly organized!We had great B&Bs and hotels with very friendly, welcoming and helpful staff. Our favorite was the Dacre House with Clare. But then again, all were great!The luggage was always at the day's destination, no matter how early we got to the accommodation.The description of how to get to the accommodations were clear and precise.The road map and the guide book were waiting for us as we got to the first B&B and were very helpful and interestingThanks, Maximum Adventure!

Kristin Hentschel
6 months ago

Praise for the West Highland Hike and the Maximum Adventure planners, esp. our planner Samantha. Great experience in every regard.

Simon Bradish
6 months ago

Booked for the 3 UK Peaks adventure, it was organised perfectly and everything when to plan. Accommodation was good, transport excellent, our guide (Patrick) brilliant, so cannot fault the trip and adventure. I personally expected too much from myself and was unable to fully summit as this adventure is not for beginners, I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2003 when I was 42 and twenty years later, although relatively fit, my endurance didn't last. So I did a half summit for Ben Nevis & Scafell, thanks to Patrick for letting go back down on my own, it was brilliant. With Snowdon, a half summit is tricky as you can't descend the way you go up, so I decided to do some hiking in the area while the rest of the group did the climb. I took a chance and went to the ticket office and managed to get a single return ticket up to the summit of Snowdon at 9am which returned down by 11.30am. I was hoping to see my group on top and spring a surprise but the weather was terrible. I highly recommend the trip but make sure you are fit enough otherwise as there is an emphasis on time, so a slow walk up is going to slow everyone down and really delay the trip. Have Fun, Simon Bradish

Why book with us

We know you have a choice of companies providing trips for your next adventures. Here are some of the reasons you should choose to travel with Maximum Adventure:

  • We are an established adventure travel business
  • We have been trading since 2002
  • We are financially protected in accordance with the 1992 travel regulation
  • Knowledgeable and available office staff
  • Qualified leaders and guides with ascents ranging from Ben Nevis to Mount Everest
  • All activities are risk assessed
  • We will provide you with the best service available
  • We are aware this is your holiday/your challenge and will do our best to make it an enjoyable and rewarding experience
  • We have many repeat clients stretching back over a number of years
20+ years adventure organisation experience
Full liability & financial protection
Leading provider of high quality adventure challenges
Great team of staff to support you

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