John O’Groats is a small coastal village in the county of Caithness, situated at the most northerly tip of the Scottish mainland.
Owing its name to a Dutch ferry man, Jan de Groot, the village has a small port, with a long-standing reputation as a gateway to the Orkney Isles. Mr de Groot began operating a ferry service to the Orkneys in 1496, shortly after the isles were acquired from Norway by King James IV.
As well as being an island portal, John O’Groats has found fame as a landmark destination for use as a start or end point for cycles, walks and various other charitable events to and from Lands’ End, some 876 miles away.
John O’Groats, as a destination, has a name far bigger than the village itself and despite its popularity with locals and tourists alike, is still very much an unspoilt and stunning haven.
Visitors to the village are spoilt for choice in an area of outstanding natural beauty, attracting all kinds, from the avid adventurer to the weekend wanderer. Those seeking a quiet stroll in a tranquil setting can peruse locally hand-crafted gifts and sample home-grown produce from a variety of gift-shops and eateries, while those pursuing the unique sights of the north can experience the rugged landscape and fresh sea air along one of many coastal walks, or on a sea-safari excursion.
Having benefitted from substantial investment, the area has undergone an ambitious transformation and continues to evolve. The quiet costal village is well equipped to cater for all manner of visitors, with a selection of accommodation and leisure facilities to suit most personalities and budgets.
Known for its generous highland hospitality, the community became a WorldHost recognised destination in 2013, achieving excellence in customer service across the board, with local businesses John O’Groats Ferries, Flavours, The Cabin, Seaview Hotel, First & Last, Tourist Information Centre, Ticketyboo, John O’ Groats Post Office, John O’Groats Caravans and Natural Retreats all becoming WorldHost Recognised Businesses in their own right.
The well-established Seaview Hotel, perched on a hill overlooking the village and harbour, offers some stunning views and also boasts what is arguably Caithness’ most comprehensive whisky collection. Owner Andrew Mowat was among the first to procure a cask of the county’s newest whisky to the market, Wolfburn, which has not yet made general release, and is a strong advocate of local produce. The hotel is known locally for its excellent quality of both food and service, and is exceedingly popular with both holidaymakers and end-to-end competitors alike.
Down at the harbour-front, luxury eco-tourism brand Natural Retreats have lovingly restored a local landmark, the former John O’Groats Hotel, to form spectacular self-catering holiday apartments, with the addition of 23 eco-friendly holiday lodges and apartments also in the surrounding grounds, made with environmentally sustainable construction methods and cutting-edge design. For the more adventurous guest, they also offer excursions and equipment hire through their equally environmentally conscious Outfitters activity centre, as well as a cooperative Storehouse shop and café, offering high-quality local food and drink.
Work is also ongoing to renovate and improve the public harbour area, with a view to improving the over-all experience and quality of life for visitors and the local community.