The history of the John O’Groats site dates back to 1496 when Jan De Groot was granted a charter to the land by the Earl of Caithness. A house was built to accommodate a grand feast which was to celebrate the anniversary of his arrival in Caithness. The house soon became known as John De Groots House which later became an inn on the site of the present hotel. The octagonal tower of the John O’Groats House Hotel as it is today is a replica of the original John De Groots house.
Nowadays the award winning John O’Groats Inn is an architecturally listed, landmark building situated at the most North Easterly point of mainland Britain. This has been redeveloped into a 19 unit apartment hotel and is complemented by 23 self-catering residences, all of which are aimed at the visitor looking for a 5 star experience.
The first stage of the regeneration, which included the restoration of the iconic Inn at John O’Groats and the construction of 23 luxury lodges, was completed in 2013 and has been a resounding success for the area and its inhabitants. Heritage Great Britain, Natural Retreats and HIE invested over £7.5 million which has transformed the former Hotel and brought many benefits to the local area as well as to the wider region.
In addition to the fantastic accommodation, Natural Retreats also runs a Storehouse café selling produce and goods from local businesses and an activity and retail Outfitters centre where visitors can book a range of activities such as sea safari, bike hire and guided walks, as well as purchase equipment, clothing and supplies for outdoor pursuits.
The development affords the visitor spectacular views across the Pentland Firth and across to the Orkney Islands. It is the start, or in some cases the finish, of the many historic Land’s End to John O’Groats 875 mile ‘End to End’ journeys. Over the years, these journeys have raised millions of pounds for charity and, in more recent times have made national headlines through the efforts of people like Fern Britton, Chris Evans, Gary Barlow, Dr Brian Cox and inspirational adventurers like Sean Conway and the team from Beeline Britain.
The approval in 2015 from the Highland Council for planning in principle provides the platform from which Heritage Great Britain, Natural Retreats and their partners can begin detailed plans for each of the zones knowing the provisional strategy has the support of the Highland Council. The consent does not provide permission to commence development as this will have to be sought through further detailed planning applications with partners and further engagement with the community.
Part of the overall strategy is to attract more visitors and to encourage them to stay longer, which will be achieved by enhancing the on-site visitor experience. As part of this strategy Heritage Great Britain and Natural Retreats are keen to support new initiatives and developments across John O’Groats, having supported the recent application for a new Bistro restaurant as well as helping facilitate the Art Work project due to be unveiled in September 2015.