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John o' Groats

Coordinates: 58°38′14″N 3°04′08″W / 58.63722°N 3.06889°W / 58.63722; -3.06889
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John o' Groats
John o' Groats House
John o' Groats is located in Caithness
John o' Groats
John o' Groats
Location within the Caithness area
OS grid referenceND380734
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWICK
Postcode districtKW1
Dialling code01955
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
58°38′14″N 3°04′08″W / 58.63722°N 3.06889°W / 58.63722; -3.06889

John o' Groats (Scottish Gaelic: Taigh Iain Ghròta) is a village 2.5 mi (4 km) northeast of Canisbay, Caithness, in the far north of Scotland. John o' Groats lies on Scotland's northeastern tip, and is popular with tourists as the most distant point on the mainland from Land's End in Cornwall, England 876 mi (1,410 km) to the southwest. The northernmost point of mainland Scotland is nearby Dunnet Head.

John o' Groats is 690 mi (1,110 km) from London, 280 mi (450 km) from Edinburgh, 6 mi (10 km) from the Orkney Isles, and 2,200 mi (3,500 km) from the North Pole. It is 4+14 mi (6.8 km) from the uninhabited Island of Stroma.

In summer, a ferry operates between John o' Groats and Burwick on South Ronaldsay in Orkney.[1]


The settlement takes its name from Jan de Groot,[2] a 15th-century Dutchman who once plied a ferry from the Scottish mainland to Orkney, which had recently been acquired from Norway by King James IV. Local legend has that the "o' Groats" refers to John's charge of one groat for use of his ferry, but it actually derives from the Dutch de groot, meaning "the large". People from John o' Groats are known as "Groaters".

The name John o' Groats has a particular resonance because it is often used as a starting or ending point for cycles, walks, and charitable events to and from Land's End (at the extreme south-western tip of the Cornish peninsula in England). The phrase Land's End to John o' Groats is frequently heard both as a literal journey (being the longest possible in Great Britain) and as a metaphor for great or all-encompassing distance, similar to the phrase common in the American continents, "coast to coast". Also, for many years, it was the northern terminal of the A9 trunk road, which now ends at Scrabster.


In 2007, the population of John o' Groats was about 300.[3] The village is dispersed, but has a linear centre with council housing, sports park, and a shop, which is on the main road from the nearest town of Wick.

Aerial view


John o' Groats attracts large numbers of tourists from all across the world all year round. In 2005, a popular tourist guide, Lonely Planet, described the village as a "seedy tourist trap"[4] and in 2010, John o' Groats received a Carbuncle Award from Urban Realm magazine for being "Scotland's most dismal town".[5] The completion of major redevelopment work in 2013 aimed to revitalise the area.[6] Every July (usually the second weekend) has the annual Wildcat Motorcycle Rally held at the local village hall, which is run by a local club of motorcycle enthusiasts called TEAM MCC (The End And More Motorcycle Club).

John o' Groats lies at the end of the 14th stage of the John o' Groats Trail, a long-distance walking trail from Inverness to John o' Groats.[7]


John o' Groats has public transport in the form of buses run by Stagecoach to the nearby towns of Wick and Thurso.


The John o' Groats House Hotel was built on or near the site of Jan de Groot's house, and was established in 1875. It has been described by Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant as "one of the UK's most famous landmarks".[8] It was closed for several years, and fell into disrepair until undergoing a radical transformation by Edinburgh-based architects GLM for self-catering holiday specialists Natural Retreats. It reopened for business in August 2013.[9]

John o' Groat's House was an ancient house believed to be situated in front of the present hotel and was marked with a flagpole now removed, deriving its name from John of Groat, or Groot, and his brothers, originally from Holland, said to have settled here about 1489. The house was of an octagon shape, being one room, with eight windows and eight doors, to admit eight members of the family; the heads of different branches of it, to prevent their quarrels for precedence at table. Each came in by this contrivance at his own door, and sat at an octagon table, at which, of course, there was no chief place or head.

Haydn's Dictionary of Dates[10]


The free signpost

The landmark "Journey's End" signpost at John o' Groats was installed in 1964 on private land and operated as a visitor attraction by a Penzance-based photography company that also operates its counterpart at Land's End. Visitors paid a fee for a photograph of themselves next to the signpost displaying either a message or the date and distance to a location of their choice.

The original site was bought in 2013 as part of the hotel redevelopment, and the signpost moved to a caravan park 200 yd (180 m) away. When the hotel reopened, a publicly accessible signpost was erected at the original site, without customisable text.[11]


John o' Groats FC plays in the Caithness Amateur Football Association.[12]

Book festival[edit]

The John O'Groat Book Festival was held for the first time in 2018. Since then, it has attracted authors such as Theresa Breslin and Christopher Brookmyre, as well as a number of local authors.[13] The festival is held annually in April.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John O'Groats ferry website". Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  2. ^ Macdonald, Fiona (13 December 2011). Scotland, A Very Peculiar History – Volume 2. Andrews UK Limited. ISBN 978-1-908759-18-4. Archived from the original on 7 September 2021. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  3. ^ John o' Groats tourist information, 29 October 2007
  4. ^ "Northern outpost dubbed 'seedy'" Archived 26 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News
  5. ^ "John O' Groats named Scotland's most dismal town" Archived 24 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine, The Carbuncle Awards, Urban Realm (accessed 19 August 2014).
  6. ^ "John O'Groats: a new starts for the end of the road" Archived 7 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 31 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Lybster to Whaligoe – The John o' Groats Trail". Archived from the original on 1 November 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  8. ^ Community buyout could save landmark hotel, John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier Archived 4 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "The Inn at John O'Groats". naturalretreats.co.uk. Archived from the original on 7 November 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  10. ^ Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, 1876, by Benjamin Vincent, pg 388.
  11. ^ "Signs of the times for John O'Groats' old landmark". heraldscotland.com/. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Caithness Amateur Football Association — League Tables". leaguewebsite.co.uk. Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Packed programme as John O'Groats Book Festival 2020 extends to four days". 21 November 2019. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2020.

External links[edit]