Duncansby Head

It may have been eclipsed by the neighbouring village of John o’Groats, but Duncansby Head – the true north-easterly point on the Scottish mainland – certainly hasn’t suffered from its failure to achieve fame. Whereas John o’Groats is a commercial tourist trap, Duncansby Head retains a delightful sense of untouched nature at its finest.

Perched on steep cliffs to the east of the world-famous village, Duncansby Head’s seascape views over Orkney are simply stunning. Make sure you avoid the mistake of soaking up the scenery from the car park before abruptly heading off to John o’Groats, because you’ll miss the stunning rock formations that are a short walk to the south.

Instead, gaze in awe at the Geo of Sclaites, a vast crevice in the cliffs where the raucous sound of the seagulls is overwhelming. Further on are two of the most impressive sights in the UK: Thirle Door, an immense rocky arch, and the Stacks of Duncansby, a set of imposing pyramidal stacks that, sentry-like, guard the cliff face. Every angle offers a distinct view and a superb photo opportunity: the stacks are as mystifying when enveloped in rolling sea fog, as they are romantic when bathed in the amber hues of the setting sun.

GETTING THERE AND OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Arriving by car

Duncansby Head is accessed via a narrow road, 2 miles from John o’Groats (turn off the A99 opposite the village post office). A small, free car park is available close to the lighthouse. 

Arriving by bus

Stagecoach bus services operate to John o’Groats daily from Wick and Thurso; Duncansby Head is a 30-minute walk from the village.

Accessibility

Most walks around Duncansby Head cover flat, grassy cliff-top paths, although care should be exercised close to the edge. Some boggy patches make walking more challenging, so arrive prepared!

THINGS TO SEE AND DO NEARBY

  • From John o’Groats, catch the ferry to Orkney to discover the highlights of these beautiful islands, including the archaeological gems of Skara Brae, the Stones of Stennes, and the Ring of Brodgar, as well as stunning sandstone cliffs, and delightful seal colonies.
  • Just half an hour from Duncansby Head, the dramatic Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is an equally impressive clifftop sight, the ruins of which betray a turbulent history dominated by war. Despite its precarious position, most of the site is fenced, making it a safe playground for the whole family to explore.

PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

As a popular visitor destination, John o’Groats offers several light bites options that are convenient for Duncansby Head.

Stacks Coffee House is a charmingly quirky, family-run establishment, offering mouth-watering food and exquisite coffee. There’s a range of snacks and dishes to savour, with an emphasis on locally sourced produce, and delightful homemade cakes. A children’s menu is also available.

Another family-run café, The Old Schoolhouse Tearoom, is an unmissable treat in a beautiful historic building. Homemade scones and cakes, light snacks, and delicious afternoon teas are complimented by warm Scottish hospitality.

For fabulous desserts, Flavours ice cream parlour is unmissable, with an impressive range of stunning flavours. Speciality drinks and confectionery are also available.

DID YOU KNOW…?

The tallest of the Stacks of Duncansby is 60 metres in height – that’s equivalent to 14 double decker buses!

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