Cape Wrath was named as the turning point for the Vikings. South to pillage and looting, east to go home with the spoils of atrocities. The land on which it stands is used for bombing practice, still at war after centuries that included the genocidal Highland Clearances, so graphically detailed by John Prebble. Inaccessible and remote, Wrath is fascinating as a mirage, unreal. I have nearly visited it many times but never succeeded, so far. This blog details my aspirations to change that, challenged by months in intensive care with covid, surviving against the odds, grossly deconditioned physically but determined to succeed after years of contemplation and frustration.
It started with a trip on my new Norton Commando motorcycle in 1972, still precious and in my possession today, my first long trip from home in London. This reached my turning point by the ferry that crosses the Kyle of Durness that separates the rest of us from the Cape Wrath peninsula, called “The Parph”: a corruption of “Wrath” in the local dialect. I chatted to the ferryman, John, but didn’t accept an offer to cross. I have no idea why; probably too full of the blissful experience of riding my bike.
I repeated this several times, in a 17 hour nonstop ride from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in the early 21st century, in a 2,700 miles in a week ride with two Australian friends in 2005, attempting the extreme points of the UK – the Lizard, Land’s End, St Davids’ Head, Ardnamurchan, Neist Point Skye, Kyle of Durness, John O’Groats, but failing to reach Lowestoft after my friend Matt’s Ducati chain broke – two successful Ironbutt challenges a week later of 1,000 miles in 24 hours and 1,500 in 36, and on the way to visit friends Magnus and Patricia in Stromness, Orkney.