John O’Groats is a small coastal village scattered over a large area and is mainly a rural farming community situated in an extreme location. There are two focal points in the village: the Post Office and Grocery store (which has a cash machine) and the Seaview Hotel. The other focus is the ‘End of the road’ harbour area, Inn, and main car park. John O’Groats as a destination has a name far bigger than the village itself so sometimes people expect a ‘town’ or more. John O’Groats isn’t a Disney World, an Alton Towers, a theme park or even like Land’s End. It is a fantastic, unspoilt location from which the adventurous can see the wonderful landscape and wildlife that is so special to this area and is the real star of the show. For the less adventurous there is still plenty to do and see at ‘the end of the road’.
A visitors first arrival point is usually the car park… which unlike Land’s End is free. From here you can visit the local shops which provided everything you’d expect in a tourist destination and more. You can get food and refreshments in the two cafes. There’s a woollen mill, a Tourist Office to answer all your questions, toilets.. yes they cost 20p… but are award winning loos of a very high standard and worth every penny. The craft village from where, unlike many tourist destinations, you can buy quality items made at John O’Groats. These include a Candle Makers, Paintings and Prints by local artist David Body.
From the harbour area there is the famous sign post and two different wildlife trips are available in season which is the best way to view the breathtaking array of bird life on the local cliffs and on the water. You can also see seals and if you’re lucky, dolphins; Minke and Killer whales are often spotted.
Stretch your legs and walk to the Ness of Duncansby along the coastal path which starts by the Harbour – look for the small corrie shells know locally as Groatie Buckies which are supposed to bring the finder good luck. The walk continues to the Stacks of Duncansby 3km away from John O’Groats… for the less fit you can easily drive.
The views across the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands six mile away are stunning from the top of these 200ft cliffs. The cliff tops are the perfect place to view the nesting sea birds in the inlets, ledges and on the stacks in complete safety.
There are day excursions to Orkney should you be tempted to go and get a closer view. John O’Groats has always been famous for it’s ‘end to enders’… and many stars have been here. The Natural Retreats redevelopment of the old hotel (now called the Inn at John O’Groats) opened in August 2013.