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Things to do in John O' Groats, Highland

If you thought John o'Groats was the northernmost point of Scotland, you are in for a shock. It isn't!

Hotel and Famous Mileage Post used for Photographs © James E Craig
Hotel and Famous Mileage Post used for Photographs © James E Craig

However, it is the furthest distance between two points on the British mainland, the other point being Land's End in Cornwall, 876 miles away.

It is this unique fact that brings many curious visitors to John o'Groats; the end of the road for many, and the start of an adventure for others.

Seaward view over shops at John O' Groats © James E Craig
Seaward view over shops at John O' Groats © James E Craig

Located in the Highlands area of Caithness it was named after Jan de Groot who arrived in the area in 1496 with his two brothers.

He was commissioned by King James IV to establish a ferry between Scotland's mainland and the isle of Orkney.

Although de Groot charged his passengers a groat (coin) as the fare, the coin has no connection with his name.

One view of John O' Groats Hotel © James E Craig
John O' Groats Hotel © James E Craig

It was in circulation long before de Groot arrived and set up in business.

However, he was responsible for the founding of John o'Groats by building himself an octagonal house and developing the harbour.

De Groot continues to live on, not just in the town's name.

His gravestone is on display in the Canisbay Kirk, a small church two miles west of the village.

Seaward looking West © James E Craig
Seaward looking West © James E Craig

Present Day John o'Groats

Despite its claim to fame, John o'Groats is a relatively small highland village surrounded by rural farmland which runs down to the coast.

Although the main economic activity is farming and crofting, there is a small harbour which is used by fishermen for lobster and crab fishing.

Shops and Caravan Park © James E Craig
Shops and Caravan Park © James E Craig

It remains relatively unspoilt and uncommercialized and is the ideal place to spend time if you are looking for a remote location surrounded by wildlife.

The small community has a Post Office, ferry office, museum, grocery store, the Journey's End Café and Bar, a church, woollen mill and a modern Tourist Information Centre.

There is also a craft village selling genuine handcrafted items which make great souvenirs of your visit.

Purchases all help support the local craft industries which produce hand-knitted sweaters and clothing, candles, pottery and artworks.

Things to Do in John o'Groats

Take the passenger ferry which runs from John o'Groats to Orkney, in the wake of the original ferryman, Jan de Groot!

It makes a great day out and you can include a guided wildlife tour.

Harbour for John O' Groats ferry to Orkney © James E Craig
Harbour for John O' Groats ferry to Orkney © James E Craig

Those wanting to travel 21st century-style can book an exhilarating ride aboard a high speed jet boat which visits Stoma and the Stacks of Duncansby.

Walk the coastal path to the Ness of Duncansdy and look for pretty corrie shells, known as Groatie Buckies which are a token of good luck.

Nature lovers will not have to go far to find an array of bird life on the cliffs.

If you are lucky you may also see seals, dolphins, minke and killer whales.

The Last House contains a small museum of the area within the low whitewashed building.

You might also want to visit Dunnet Head, ten miles away, which is actually the most northerly point of mainland Britain.

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