Many people will have heard of the name John O’Groats, the most northerly settlement of the UK mainland, but just like its counterpart in the South West, Lands End, it is regarded more as a start or stop point on a journey, rather than a destination in its own right. Many people make the journey north to the town simply to start heading south again, often on a bicycle run or walk for charity, but that is all set to change for the much maligned Scottish resort, once dubbed a ‘dismal carbunkle,’ with a £15 million project of redevelopment.
The desolate, windswept landscape of the ‘big sky country’ in this part of Scotland has its very obvious appeal, as the most unspoilt wilderness left in the UK which is still within easy reach. It is rather the town of John O’Groats itself which has left visitors uninspired. The proposed new developments will not only provide new restaurants, hotels and self catering accommodation, but also breathe new and dramatic life into one of the town’s best known landmarks, the John O’Groats House Hotel, set to be transformed by a team of street artists from Inverness.
Additional plans to improve the coastal paths and harbour are already under way and as Carol Gunn, for the Highlands and Islands Enterprise agency, explains, this is no simple makeover or quick fix but a ‘paradigm shift for John O’Groats,’ a reversal of ’10 years of lack of planning, co-ordination and development.’ The first phase of development is due for completion in the autumn, but the Arts Weekend of early July is when the John O’Groats House Hotel becomes a blank canvas for the street artists and this will set the scene for the start of something special happening to a much loved and rightly famous, part of the UK.
Image: “John O’ Groats by foxypar4, on Flickr”