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.


0 thoughts on “JOHN ‘O GROATS -THE OTHER END

  1. Fascinating altogether! I didn’t know that, about the Dutchman, but it makes sense. And those awful colours – it looks like a botched attempt to make the castle tower look like a medieval tourney pavilion! Hope the new plans are more appropriate.

  2. I don’t know anything about the new plans, but I totally agree with you about the officially sanctioned graffitti. You wonder about the cost of temporarily vandalising the old building with the paintwork. Assuming there will be some conservation, it will cost extra to remove that awful dirty Brighton Rock appearance. Around the corner was a poor attempt at trompe d’oeille.

  3. It’s a pity about the hotel, it should be lemon and pink! At least then it wouldn’t look like a phallic Manchester United edifice. The Locarno in Sheffield, once a 60’s nightclub, similar shape as well, has also been various colours. Once it was a mosque and was painted all black, it looked awful. Latterly it was Dracula red and black and it has been bright orange. Tesco have it now and have daubed it, (for use of a better word), cream with dark blue borders, which were Sheffield’s old bus company colours, albeit with a big TESCO sign stuck to the side. Maybe Tesco will buy it, they seem to have everything else.

  4. I think the paintwork is sheer officially sanctioned vandalism. I totally agree with your sentiments.

    There was a theory that ‘Groats’ referred to very small shells known as Groatie Buckies. It doesn’t, although, if the evidence did not exist of Jan de Groot’s life, the tiny shells concept might have stuck. As it is, there is no chicken and egg conundrum to concern ourselves with.


  5. Tesco seem to have restored some locally owned colour back to the building you mention in Sheffield.

    As for the J.O’G. Hotel, around the other side there is a crude attempt at trompe d’oeille…it is grim. I would have hoped the old building might have had a conservation or preservation order on it; obviously not. The turreted construction is iconic and I hope the plans for the reconstruction will include it without the awful official graffiti. Whoever allowed the building to be daubed like that ought to be pilloried. The screens that were erected were bad too, they have been deconstructed and I hope either burnt, or saved for a community bonfire night.

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