Friday, October 21, 2011


One fine day I found myself in John O' Groats, a corruption of a the name of a Dutchman, Jan de Groot, who settled there about the 15th century, so the story goes, and ran a ferry that plied its trade to The Orkney islands. De Groot had seven sons. To minimise confrontation and to give equal status to all, Jan had built an octagonal shaped table for all to sit at when they had their business meetings. 

On the site where the de Groot family lived, grew a hotel known as The John O' Groats Hotel. Over recent decades the hotel has been allowed to fall into disrepair. A community project, it is not clear which community, was officially sanctioned to 'tart it up'. That meant some outer walls were painted in various mismatched styles. The local community indicate they do not like it. In many ways, the decaying building seemed much more in keeping with the ancient history of the area. The hotel is now undergoing re-modelling and refurbishing.

J O' G- building site

Because of the 'end-to-enders' as they are called, (they are the large numbers of people who cover the miles from Lands End to John O' Groats annually by various means of transport) there is a mistaken belief that John O' Groats is the most Northerly habitation and/or the most Northerly place in the U.K. Neither is true. The most Northerly point is five miles away.

I heard a local photographer has rights over the iconic signpost used to take photographs of arrivals to Groats. When the photographer is not there, neither is the signpost. Even when the photographer is there the post is not always erected till there is obvious business. Another trader has created an alternative signpost with distances, which is fixed to his shop wall.

fixed Sign

It is very popular with visitors. I saw people taking pictures of themselves by it with their mobile phones. It adds to the interest of the John O' Groat Harbour for present day ferry passengers, when the seasonal ferry plies its trade to and from Orkney; the fixed post is permanently there, and that was more than one could say for the 'official' signpost and its photographer.


Anonymous said...

I've never been there, but have been to the 'other end' which is a bit nearer for me! Flighty xx

ZACL said...

I've been near enough to the other end too, Mr F, decided that it wasn't worth paying to tread on the 'hallowed ground' so viewed it all from a hillock.

A relative, alas no longer with us, cycled to Land's End shortly after the war. She commented in her diary that... "the only hotel has been bombed".


Flighty said...

I preferred nearby Cape Cornwall which is not commercialised and virtually devoid of people.
That's one heck of a cycle ride even now, and that comment makes me smile! Flighty xx

ZACL said...

The relative did a lot of cycling post war. I think she was based somewhere in Surrey most of the time. Edinburgh was another cycle visit and there were some fascinating insights into her B+B experiences on the way North and in and around Edinburgh itself.