There are places I'll remember all my life. Inverness bus station is unlikely to be one of them, but the other end of the line certainly will. The finishing point of the wayward bus coincides with the edge of the world, or at least that is how it seems.

 the Durness bus, which flopped to a halt at the end of the long haul from Inverness.

A fog was doing its best to smother and smooth the roughest edge of the world, but the acute serrations of mainland Britain's most distant shore cut through the gloom with the sharpness of diamonds.


Long and winding: that sums up the road to Durness from, well, just about anywhere. The journey from Liverpool, on the rough roads of half a century ago, would have been a two-day epic. But it was a trip that John Lennon made five times in his teens.


"It was where he got a lot of inspiration before he became famous," Lennon would have been familiar with the cavern: not a Liverpool club, but Britain's largest sea cave. Smoo Cave echoes with the power of the ocean. Reputedly, the first man to enter the cave was Sir Walter Scott in 1814; it was traditionally regarded as the gateway to Hell. 

The bus from Inverness terminates just above Smoo Cave: a few yards further, the road leaps across the void into which a stream seethes. Tumble down the grassy bank to a shore strewn with natural and unnatural detritus, branches smoothed and bleached by the sun and the wind and frozen into balletic poses by the sea. Blazes of yellow flowers, which define the word "tenacious", illuminate the walk into an echo chamber where aspirations can flourish.

The late genius behind the Beatles endured a muddled, melancholy upbringing in Merseyside. For Lennon, as with anyone, holidays provided an escape from the tyranny of the everyday. While his pals headed for Rhyl and Llandudno on the coast of North Wales, Lennon went as far as it is possible to go in Britain without getting your feet wet. His destination was the north-westernmost mainland community in the kingdom: Durness, population 350.

The economics of holidays were different in those days. Today, Liverpool John Lennon Airport provides quick, cheap access from Merseyside to sun-spots across Europe, and even has a link to New York. At the tail end of the 1950s, Britons might never have had it so good, but travel was still a frugal business. Anyone in the fortunate position of owning a car would be expected to fill it with as many travellers as the chassis would bear and drive to whichever coast had a relation who could offer free accommodation. In the case of the Beatle-to-be, the distant (in both senses) relative was Bertie Sutherland, who had married Lennon's maternal aunt and settled in the land that shared his surname. Lennon travelled in the company of his cousin, Stanley Parkes, who was five years older. They stayed in a sturdy white croft overlooking Sango Bay – a beach facing always the Arctic, never the sun.





 The ancient rocks of north-west Sutherland have been battered by the elements eight days a week for the last few million years, leaving the surrounds of Sango Bay looking like a lower jaw half-full of rotting teeth. But they subside into smooth, shelving sands that gleam with silver, white and gold as the last of the summer sun burns through the vapour.


It is inviting to think that is precisely what the teenager from Liverpool did as he felt the perfect sand melt beneath his feet, followed shortly and shockingly by the searing Atlantic cold. Next time you listen to the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4, pay particular attention to what Charlotte Green says about Sea Area Fair Isle: this ragged pentagon, pinched between Faroes and Viking, bears the brunt of everything that 3,000 miles of intemperate ocean can hurl at it. And next time you listen to a Beatles tune on Radio 2, imagine the young John Lennon contemplating the fury of the natural world. This is the landscape that is said to have inspired the song "In My Life".


After his final visit, Lennon returned painfully slowly to Liverpool, then to rapidly global stardom by way of the Cavern Club, Hamburg and Shea Stadium in New York.


Fifteen years elapsed between that legendary concert in 1965 and Lennon's assassination on the steps of the Dakota Building in Manhattan. But at the time the Beatles were falling apart in 1969, John and Yoko Ono returned to Durness so that he could share tales of his youth with his wife and his young son, Julian.


: "A Quiet and Interesting Corner of Britain", 

"Many of the pressures of modern-day living are not to be found here." 



 the shrine to John Lennon. It has been constructed in a corner of the community centre grounds that is not so much wind-swept as gale-flattened. Tenacious shrubs and even the occasional flower conspire to provide the closest that most gardeners in far northern Scotland can get to a thriving floral display.

Three slabs of granite, their edges rough but their surfaces smooth, have been inscribed by the sculptor Neil Fuller with the words of "In My Life ". The villagers got a little help from their friends in creating the garden in an area that is a test ground for meteorological extremes and poor soil. 


John Lennon's choice of day-trips across this small universe was limited. You could try for a ferry across the narrow Kyle of Durness, and walk, hitch or bus the remaining four miles to Cape Wrath. In this remote corner of Britain it seems natural to precede "isolation" with "splendid ".

 "It's a fantastic place to live. isolated here even compared with the islands, but ot has   a good little community here."