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Cafe at the end of the universe ... where a cup of tea is guaranteed

On the face of it, passing trade might be a bit of a problem. Mind you, by the time potential customers reach the most remote cafe on the British mainland, at Cape Wrath lighthouse, they�ll almost certainly be ready for a drink.

On the face of it, passing trade might be a bit of a problem.

Mind you, by the time potential customers reach the most remote cafe on the British mainland, at Cape Wrath lighthouse, they'll almost certainly be ready for a drink.

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It is not just the journey to the tiny ferry which negotiates the sand bars in the Kyle of Durness, or the 11-mile walk/cycle or bumpy ride in a minibus; there is also the small problem of access being regularly interrupted by Nato shelling, bombing or strafing targets in and around the peninsula.

However, owner John Ure, 54, is optimistic that his cafe "The Ozone", which opened yesterday with free whisky, will do well.

"We had a trial snack bar, bringing over a caravan for two years and it was viable," he said.

"So we decided to step it up to a cafe. Some two thousand people a year come off the minibuses and they were always wanting water, so now they can get a cup of tea or coffee. Although the minibuses only run May to September, we will be open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. If you come to that door you will get a cup of tea, day or night. You will get a welcome."

He says the bombing is a small price to pay for staying in such a stunning location, where there are whales and dolphins, deer and a sea eagle for company. However, his venture has a few logistical problems - no mains water (bottled only) or electricity and no toilets, but they are coming in the next stage of Ozone's development. "We will need the toilets so that we can offer soup and sandwiches."

Mr Ure and his wife Katherine are now the only people who live permanently on the cape. There are four former shepherds' cottages strewn across the vast emptiness of a peninsula which as recently as the 1930s supported a community of almost 40 with its own school. The cottages are now holiday homes, and the Mountain Bothy Association's bothy is the only other extant example of human habitation.

The lighthouse keepers were replaced by an automatic lighting system in 1998, but Mr Ure insists he does not mind the solitude.

"Although we are now the only people living permanently, it is amazing the number who just turn up."

It is 10 years since they took up residence. Originally from Glasgow, where he manufactured blinds and shutters, the couple had long had a dream of doing up a building at risk. "We tried for Ardnamurchan Lighthouse but the Highland Regional Council had taken that over."

So they jumped at the chance of what was the principal lighthouse keeper's house, at the most north-westerly point on the British mainland.

Cape Wrath takes its name from the Norse for turning point, where the Vikings either headed east, for home or south to the Hebrides.

The Ures have spent the last 10 years doing up the building. "The windows and doors were off it, it was pretty derelict."

Now they have a visitor's centre as well as a cafe, and yesterday they got their first customers, Roy and Chris Beaty from Cumbria, on holiday in their camper van.

Mrs Beaty said: "We came here on impulse. We happened to stop over at Keoldale (south of Durness) when I saw there was this trip. It really is beautiful."

Guido Haupt, from Hamburg, was equally impressed, not least by the civil engineering at the edge of the world.

The lighthouse itself was built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson, the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson. The cape was a notorious hazard to shipping. It is said to have an average of 38 days of gales a year.

Looking east to Clo Mor, at 900ft the highest cliff on mainland Britain, and then down to the sea below, you can understand what Sir Walter Scott was talking about when he visited 14 years before the lighthouse was built: "On this dread cape, so fatal to mariners, it is proposed to build a lighthouse and Stevenson has fixed on an advantageous position. It is a high promontory, with steep sides that go sheer down to the breakers, which lash its feet.

"There is no landing except in a small creek about a mile- and-a-half eastward. There the foam of the sea plays at long bowl with a huge collection of large stones, some of them a ton in weight, but which these fearful billows churn up and down as a child tosses a ball.''

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