John o Groats Scotland Britain

John o’Groats (Highland, Scotland) and Land’s End (Cornwall, England) go hand in hand or top to tail, as two of the most famous landmarks in Britain.  A distance of 874 miles separates the two locations and makes it the longest distance between two inhabited places on the island of Great Britain. John o’Groats, the more remote, is located only 18km from Easter Head, the most northerly point on the island of Great Britain. It has a population of 300 and consists of a few houses, craft shops and a hotel. The Village receives a surprising number of tourists other than ultra fit long distance cyclists raising money for a variety of erstwhile charitable causes. (as with most “good” ideas they probably agreed to take on the exhausting challenge after consuming a few too many beers in a pub late one night).

Who the devil was John o’Groats?  Despite appearances he wasn’t an adventurous Irishman seeking his fortune on the Northern most shores of Scotland. John o’Groats was actually a Dutchman called Jan de Groote. In 1496 he applied for and was granted a license by James IV, the then King of the Scots, to run the ferry to the Orkney Islands. The fare back then was one groat.  A groat was slang for fuppence or four English pence. So the logical derivation is Jan = John and one groat = o’Groat.

If you not up for cycling the full 876 miles just yet, is a long detour to John o’Groats worth the effort next time you’re in Scotland?  Yes it certainly is if you would like to:

  • Visit the Castle of Mey, the ancestral seat of the late Queen Mother, 6 miles away.
  • Book a wildlife sea cruise to spot puffins, grey seals, killer whales and porpoises.
  • Visit The Orkneys Islands for the day. See Skara Brae,The Churchill Barriers, Scapa Flow,The Ring of Brodgar, The Standing Stones of Stenness, The Italian Chapel in Kirkwall and Kirkwall’s magnificent 12th Century cathedral.

Before you plan and book such a visit you could pop out to the pub for a few pints of Dutch courage first. Beware when you start drinking, you need to know where to “draw the precarious line”. That “one more jar for the road” could end up being a very long road indeed!


This post was contributed by Sam Blomfield from the reservations department at Michael Paul Holidays.

Image by mijlee via Flickr