If the names Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Zaphod Beeblebrox bring a smile of recognition to your face, you’re obviously acquainted with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams’ 1970s BBC radio show that spawned a multi-media cult phenomenon.
When the iconic Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles reopened after a four-year renovation, it included a new dining facility named “The Café at the End of the Universe”, an homage to the second book in the Hitchhiker series, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
In early June 2009, a tea shop opened, formally called “The Ozone”, but popularly dubbed “café at the end of the universe”, because of its location on the cliffs of Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly point on the British mainland.
About ten years ago, John and Katherine Ure, a Scots couple from Glasgow, were looking for a “fixer upper”, when they found a lighthouse and its collection of outbuildings that had been made redundant by a new radar station. The lighthouse itself was designed in 1828 by Robert Louis Stevenson, grandfather of the author, and was operational until 1998. At present, the Ures are the only year-round residents at the site, sharing it with the British military, which uses it as a bombardment range, which tends to restrict tourist access.
Mr. Ure opened ” The Ozone” after doing a “feasibility study” based upon the findings of running a snack bar at the Cape for two years, during the May to September season when visitors number close to 2000. The results were sufficiently favorable to encourage the expansion to the tea shop, a project not without inherent difficulties, there being neither electricity nor running water at “The Ozone”‘s location. However, at the moment, adding toilets tops the list of proposed improvements.
Because the weather in the area can be quite treacherous, Cape Wrath appears a fitting name for the site, however the name actually comes from the Old Norse, meaning “turning point”, because this is believed to be the point at which Vikings turned their ships for home.
The nearby Clo Mor Cliffs are the tallest in the British Isles; the area also boasts an exotic mix of wildlife, including red deer, eagles, and puffins, and serves as an excellent vantage point for viewing sea mammals.
That the isolation and difficult access, by foot, or by ferry via the Kyle of Furness, and an 11-mile minibus ride (a segment which can also be traversed by bicycle or on foot) has considerable appeal is attested to by the Cape Wrath Challenge, a week-long festival of running events in late May, that climaxes with a regulation-length marathon out to the lighthouse and back, a race that has become so popular it is now booked almost to capacity.
Recognizing that it takes considerable planning and effort for visitors to get to the Cape, Mr. Ure has vowed that the tea shop will be open 365 days a year, and that anyone who shows up at the door 24/7 will be served a cup of tea…although according to press reports, it was another well-known Scottish beverage that was offered at the grand opening.
Many thanks to Iris Mackay and the Cape Wrath Organization for permission to use the photos.