Generally regarded as the most northerly outpost on the British mainland, John o’Groats is etched in the national consciousness of many people, thanks to the many times it has featured as the starting point of many intrepid people’s epic attempts to walk, run, cycle or travel by any other possible means between it and Land’s End in Cornwall, its equivalent at the southern tip of the island.
At 690 miles from London, it holds a fascination with many people from the English capital, as the furthest-flung outpost from the city.
Named after Jan de Groote, a Dutchman who inaugurated a ferry service between the village and the Orkney Islands in the late 15th century, it can hardly be called a town, as it has a mere 310 permanent residents.
Tourists visit John O’Groats from all over the world, largely thanks to its perception as the most northerly spot on the British mainland. And few people would argue that it is remote. The nearest city is Inverness, to which it is linked by the A9 trunk road, but that is 169 miles away, and the drive takes about 4½ hours. So if you’re looking for a holiday retreat which is quiet, remote and a world away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, you could hardly find a better choice.
Although it is technically in the Scottish Highlands, John O’Groats is, in fact, one of the region’s lowest-lying points. It is popular as a holiday base among wildlife enthusiasts, who come to explore the numerous wildlife havens in the area, as well as the natural history display at nearby Dunnet Bay.
Residents of the area dating back many years have donated items encapsulating their lives in this remote region to help form a unique display which is central to the attractions at the ‘Last House in Scotland’. This free museum also offers a popular facility for buying John O’Groats postcards, and having them postmarked with the village’s name.
The Royal family has a strong attachment to the area which goes back many centuries, and the Castle of Mey, six miles down the road, was the official residence of the late Queen Mother in the Caithness region.
Sports enthusiasts can play golf at the nearby courses in Wick and Thurso, while the area, as might be expected is blessed with abundant local walks allowing visitors to appreciate the true wild beauty of the North Sea coast. The Duncansby Head lighthouse is within easy reach, and its main feature is that it is one of very few square lighthouses in the country. Nearby, in Dunnet Forest, you can get completely lost in the peace and quiet of the area, where all the sounds you’ll hear will be those of the forest’s natural inhabitants.
While you may need a car to get the most from visiting this unique area, you can still nevertheless find all the amenities you’ll need, provided by operators of luxury holiday rental complexes, where you’ll feel far from out on a limb. It you’ve visited Scotland before, though, but haven’t been this far north, you’ll be relieved to know that the area encapsulates everything that makes the country such a popular and inspiring holiday destination.
This post was contributed by Lesley Sampson a freelance blogger who often covers travel topics such as how to find luxury self catering uk holidays.