John o'Groats (Gaelic: Taigh Iain Ghròt) is a small village in the historic county of Caithness in the Scottish Highlands. The signpost marks the ceremonial north terminus of the British mainland road network.
John o'Groats takes its name from Jan de Groot, a Dutchman who came to the area in 1489 with his brothers. Legend claims that he built an octagonal house with eight doors so that the brothers could enter independently with no "After you, Alphonse - no Gaston, after you I insist" nonsense. No trace of such a building has been found. The Orkney Islands were ceded by Norway to Scotland in 1472 (in lieu of the unpaid dowry of Queen Margaret of Denmark) and traffic between islands and Scottish mainland increased. Jan de Groot operated the ferry - another legend is that the fare was a groat (worth four pence), but his name means Jan the Great or "Big John".
Scotland's historic arterial routes ran from the main Post Office in Edinburgh, with A9 ending here, though the last stretch from Wick has been re-designated A99. John o'Groats is the most northerly settlement on the mainland of Great Britain, but it's not the most northerly point - that's nearby Dunnet Head.
- John o'Groats Tourist Information Centre, County Road, ☏ , fax: . open Easter-October. Information on travel, accommodation, local services and emergency services - also stocks a range of books, maps, gifts and souvenirs.
This is the only direct means to get to John o'Groats. It is located at the end of the A99, which branches from the main A9 Inverness to Thurso road at the village of Latheron, going via the neighbouring town of Wick. If you are arriving via the Orkney Islands, you follow the A939 due east from Thurso.
If you are driving from the Central Belt, bear in mind that this is an extremely remote part of Scotland, the total distance from Glasgow/Edinburgh is almost 280 mi (450 km) - think about it - the same distance as say the Midlands of England. From the Central Belt to Inverness is around 2.5-3hours, reckon on another 2 hours to make the 110 mile journey to Caithness as the A9 becomes a rural single carriageway north of the Black Isle.
Get a ferry from the Orkney Islands.
- 1 Castle of Mey (6 miles west of John o'Groats). May to Sept daily (but closed 24 July-6 Aug) 10:00-17:00. Built as a tower house in the 16th C, and derelict by 1952 when it was bought by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900-2002) shortly after the death of her husband King George VI, and restored by her over the following years. Adult £12, conc £10, child £6.50.
- 2 Dunnet Head (off the A836, 20km west of John o' Groats). Actually the northernmost point in Great Britain. There is a lighthouse at the end of the headland, and impressive sea cliffs. Great views across the sea to Orkney.
- 3 Duncansby Head (3km east of John o' Groats, along a minor road). The most north-easterly point in Great Britain. It also has a lighthouse and sea cliffs, as well as sea stacks.
- See Orkney from here. To the north, cloud-wreathed Hoy is seen to the west, and low-lying pastoral South Ronaldsay to the east. The little islands in between are uninhabited and have no transport. These are Swona just west of South Ronaldsay, and Stroma (larger and west) and Muckle Flugga (tiny and east) closer in: these latter two are part of Caithness not Orkney, but the sheep don't care.
- Go to Land's End. The journey from Land's End to John o' Groats (or vice versa) has been undertaken by many individuals as a personal challenge, and to raise funds for good causes. The usual on-road distance is about 1400 km (900 miles), but it can be much longer, depending on the route chosen. It is usually done by walking or cycling, but it has also been done by running, on a horse, driving, or by public transport.
- 1 Wildlife Cruise on the John o' Groats Ferry (ferry office, at the harbour), ☏ . Daily at 14:30, June to August. 90 minute afternoon cruise. Wildlife spotted can include puffins, skuas, guillemots, and grey seals. £18.
- Mey Highland Games are held at the castle in early August. The 2020 event was cancelled so the next is probably Sat 7 Aug 2021, tbc.
There is a small shop called 'First and Last' at the pier of John O'Groats.
- 1 John o' Groats Guest House, John o' Groats, Caithness, KW1 4YR, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A comfortable, family run guest house. £50.
- 2 Natural Retreats John o' Groats, ☏ . Historic hotel next to the harbour, built in 1875. It has now been refurbished as luxury self-catering apartments and lodges. From £108.
- 3 Seaview Hotel, KW1 4YR, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From £40.
- Head back the other way to Land's End. It's a long walk!
- West to Thurso
- South to Wick
- Take a ferry north to the Orkney Islands
|Routes through John o'Groats|
|END ←||N S||→ Wick → Inverness|