Duncansby sea stacks and geos near John O’Groats, Caithness

Just North of the tacks and geos of Duncansby a narrow sheer sided Geo opens out into a bigger sheer sided geo!

There is a deep cave running far into the back wall with air space above almost all the way. Watch for seals, they have right of way! Please respect the voluntary fishing ban operating in the geo. Launch at John ‘O Groats.

The borders of Caithness are the Pentland Firth to the north, and Moray Firth to the east. Caithness meets Sutherland, together covering the far north coast of Scotland. The coast is low-lying on the east, and majestic on the north, with high cliffs and offshore stacks at places like Duncansby Head.

Duncansby Head lies a few kilometres to the north-east of John o’Groats but sees few visitors despite its dramatic scenery and views. Duncansby Head is famous for its Stacks that rise 210 feet out of the sea. Park at the lighthouse where there are excellent views north to Orkney. An excellent coastal walk.

Park near lighthouse at Duncansby head, follow the trail. This walk will guide you past large sea-bird colonies where you will be able to see guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills and puffins amongst the many birds. Here you will see high cliffs providing stunning views of stacks and coastline with drops up to 70 metres (250 feet).

Duncansby Head is the real north eastern tip of the Scottish mainland. Its cliff-top location provides outstanding views and is home to a lighthouse built in 1924 and automated in 1997. As well as the striking landscape which includes the famous Duncansby stacks, a large variety of rare birds and marine mammals occupy the cliffs and waters around the headland.

Follow a well worn path to see the pointed sea stacks of Duncansby which look like something out of Tolkien’s Mordor. Other highlights on this 4km linear walk are the Geo of Sclaites – a deep vertical incision in the cliffs and the Thirle Door, a fine sea-arch.

For a second dive, try the shallow wreck of the Bettina Danica at the south of Stroma Island, so shallow that significant chunks of it are still on the rocks and even on top of the cliffs. Or go round the corner of Duncansby Head to find the Geo of Sclaites, a cut deep into the cliffs that’s wide enough to drive a boat in and turn round at the other end.

When it comes to cuts and caves, a spectacular location is the Geo of Sclaites. This cut goes 100 metres back into the cliffs at Duncansby head, wide enough to drive the Humber into with room to turn round at the end. Seabirds rest on ledges above us, but all are sufficiently happy with our presence that we don’t get dive bombed.

Without any convenient lighthouse quay on which to soak up the sun, lunch is chips at John O’Groats.

Or you can just take an easy ride on one of the several available coastal trips in somebody else’s boat, from John O’Groats or Wick. Any of these trips will show you the cliffs and birds and wildlife without even having to lift a paddle.

John O’ Groats actually takes its name from a Dutchman called Jan de Groot, who set up the ferry service to Orkney back in 1496. Today you can take boat trips from John O’ Groats, such as around the wild cliffs of Duncansby Head that are up to 200 feet high and are home to many nesting seabirds.

John o’Groats is famed as the northeastern corner of the British Mainland and the small village receives a huge number of visitors. The true northeasterly point is nearby Duncansby Head, which has two truly spectacular remarkable pyramid-shaped sea stacks just to the south. A large incut eroded into the cliffs (known as Sclaites Geo) is a good place to view, hear and even smell the colony. From here along to the sea stacks there is much to see.

WARNING – keep away from cliff edges!

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