I planned our trip to be a driving holiday, and I hoped to cover the entire length of the main island of the United Kingdom, 850 miles from Land’s End to John o’Groats. On Friday 17 May we set out to do the 250 miles (400 km) return trip to John o’Groats and back to where we staying near Inverness. Our route took us through Wick, in Caithness, home of my Budge and Gunn forebears.

Although the roads in northern Scotland are narrow and winding, we enjoyed the drive and the scenery. Scottish weather is often no fun at all, but the day was warm and sunny.

John o’Groats was less busy than Land’s End and about as interesting: not very. As Dr Johnson said (of a stageplay) it was worth seeing but not worth going to see.

Sixteen miles south of John O’Groats is the town of Wick, where my great great grandmother Margaret Cudmore nee Budge (1845 – 1912) was born on 22 October 1845. Her parents were Kenneth Budge (1813 – 1852) and Margaret Budge nee Gunn (1819 – 1863).

Once an important fishing port, Wick was quiet and a little run-down. Charlotte and I had a look in the museum, where we learned about the herring trade, including a word of its vocabulary, ‘tenterhooks’, hooks which herrings to be sold as kippers are hung on to dry. (A ‘tenter’ is the frame; pegs on a tenter fastened kippers for drying.)

I have another family connection with Wick: William [Johnstone] Pulteney (1729 – 1805), my 7th great uncle, a wealthy politician and financier. Besides investments in North America, William Pulteney had an interest in the Pulteney Bridge and other buildings in Bath, buildings on the seafront at Weymouth in Dorset, and roads in his native Scotland. He also invested heavily in Wick. As Governor of the British Fisheries Society, Pulteney appointed the Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford to design Wick’s herring fishing port, at that time the world’s largest. The development was named Pulteneytown. Peter bought a bottle of single malt whiskey from the Old Pulteney distillery there.

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On our return south we paused at the Clan Gunn Heritage Centre – it wasn’t open until June but we admired some of the gravestones there

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a view across the fields to the sea near the Gunn Heritage Centre at Latheron

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another view of the parked oil rigs in Cromarty Firth

We had haggis for dinner again this evening. It was a different brand, not so good. A nip of the Old Pulteney would have improved it, but we were keeping Peter’s whisky for later.

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Google Timeline map of our drive north on 17 May 2019

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