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A visit to John O’Groats should be OFF the Bucket List. It’s not worth the effort.

Hyped up over the inflated egotistical corporate self promotional drivel, my family and I were taken in, and began a journey related to the appreciation of the Northern Territories of Scotland.  At the very top of Scotland, we began with a journey to see the topmost camping sites in Scotland, and visit John O Groats (or Jon o Groats depending on where you come from).

John O Groats is the place that end to enders from Lands End start and finish. The distance from Lands End to John O Groats is approximately 874 miles and is technically the furthest distance points for our little UK island

Dunnet Head is the actual furthest point, but John O Groats is the place that has turned commercial.

Pretty leaflets and alluring descriptions pulled us to striking an item from our family bucket list.  Come to think of it, we may have to rethink the drivel in our bucket if this is what we are reduced to.

Should’ve stayed at home……or should we?

“Are we nearly there yet  mum?” every five minutes in a three hour hour journey with 100 miles of driving, drives us a little into brain mush.  “I need a pee” seemed to resonate with any one of the three of them needing to stop off at the entry of every little village we passed along the way.

“Muuummm” a voice calls in panic from the loo.  Racing into the gents and expecting goodness knows what, a little boy pipes up that there’s no loo roll.  Running off for some leaves at the side of the road isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend five minutes on a car stop.

Visiting any toilet as a female is an effort of epic proportions as there is always the problem of what to do if there isn’t any toilet roll !!!   When the boys were smaller, pants were known to be disposed of in a toilet bin when loo roll was in short supply.

“There’s nothing to see,” eldest says in disgust as we roll up to the car park with the aura of excitement waning.  We see the signs for John O’Groats.  Expecting gorgeous views and unspoiled beachy areas, we parked up in silence as the exact nature of the place became clear and the heavens decided to rain on our parade in buckets and spaces, with cats and dogs to spare.

Disappointment abounded.  I know the season hasn’t officially started yet, but come on, there were dozens of cars there in the short half hour that we stayed for, so they should have been a bit more prepared for people this close to opening season than they were.

Grudging the 60p it cost for three boys to take a leak, I pushed them through a tatty turnstyle with skewed sign on it. With the amount of 20 pees they must take, surely they could afford a decent sign and a clean of the toilet floors now and again.

Promising littlest who is museum daft a browse of the “last house in scotland,” I finally admitted defeat in the tattyness and sheer pointlessness of the visit.  The “last house” was shrouded in scaffolding, as was the tearoom thing, the hotel, and it seemed like almost everything else there.

Harbour John O'Groats


Most of the shop units were empty and looked deserted.  The deco pieces looked skanky and dirty.

From its workshop, Caithness Candles looked like it does a roaring trade in what looked like penis shaped candles.  As a chandler myself, I gave their showroom a miss.

The caravan site looked nothing like website pics and I was pleased that we left the van behind to come up for a look.  Staying there would have been soul destroying.

Caravan Site John O'Groats - View 1
Caravan Site John O'Groats - The Lone Van


The only two places worth a small visit seemed to be the gift shop and the ice-cream shop but be prepared for extortionate prices for an ice-cream cone.

Craft Shop


“Horrible,” eldest summed up and he was quite right.  The harbour is skanky and miserable.

It’s a pointless visit if you want to see nice scenery and I’d advise going to either Dunnet Head or Duncansby Head.  We didn’t have time for Duncansby Head, but I’ll tell you about Dunnet Head in another post as it would spoil it to have it added here.

19 thoughts on “A visit to John O’Groats should be OFF the Bucket List. It’s not worth the effort.

  1. I agree with you John ogroats is a dreary miserable lifeless place stuck in the 1940s full of greedy little business people charge what they like because no competition because there’s bugger all here nothing for kids come to think of it nothing for grown ups the up grade of John ogroats is a joke it’s still a shithole believe me I no I live here

  2. I am not sure when you last visited a tourist attraction, but £1.50 for a scoop of high quality ice cream hardly sounds extortionate to me. Please be careful when you are bad mouthing respectful businesses. Your comments are both damaging and misleading

    1. Do you work there by any chance? If you do, we could have discussed this amicably.

      I am entitled to my opinion of what I paid while I was there and by that I also think other tourist attractions are expensive for goods on their sites too. You could easily have justified why the ice cream would be worth the cost to any readers instead of accusing me of bad mouthing. For one scoop, £1.50 so I presume, for a double cone, it will be over £3 with the addition of cone added and any toppings too. That is expensive to me for an ice cream. I can’t remember the exact price, but I found it expensive at the time. The shop was lovely and one of the few places I found worthy of a visit, but people will make up their own minds about the parlour while they are there, and perhaps others have more money to throw away than we do.

      Which comments are damaging and misleading?

      1. Thanks for your considered reply. A double cone is actually £2.50. Sauce is free; there’s a table laid out with lots of sauce for customers to help themselves and always has been. Our ice cream is made in Scotland with the very best ingredients (and when you visited, it was exclusively Capaldi’s of Harry Gow which is made fresh to order in the Highlands). Sorry you considered it expensive. It was the word extortionate that I was upset about – it may put people off even coming in the door if they are led to believe it may be extortionate (as is the case above, with one poster saying she wouldn’t bother to visit then). That’s potentially damaging and in my own opinion, misleading. You are right, it’s up to people to make up their own minds. As it happens, we are exceptionally busy and our locals come in regularly, even daily, so it’s all good.

        As for you comments on John O’Groats, you are absolutely right to say what you did and I don’t doubt your dismal experience one little bit (although a lot has changed in a year). It is nothing short of a disgrace the state that John O’Groats was allowed to get into and as a famous landmark it was truly shocking.

        Thanks again for your thoughtful reply and for allowing me the opportunity to comment further. Sandra Thain, Flavours, John O’Groats.

        1. Perhaps the fact that a fair few people I’ve talked to have found it expensive and have said it would be a one time visit, it would be worth considering a cheaper alternative range for those who would otherwise feel obliged to pay more than they are both comfortable with, or able to pay. I know I paid it because I’d already said to the kids they could have an ice cream. I don’t have a problem with changing extortionate to expensive if that makes you more comfortable.

  3. Oh, I totally agree. There are sooooo many amazing, mind-blowing places to visit in Scotland and what a shame JoG leaves such a bitter taste in the mouth.
    I hope for Scotland’s sake that the plans and money improve this place which was packed with tourists when i was there who were probably all thinking the same thing….”is this IT?”

    1. It is terribly disappointing when it could be so good.

  4. Oh dear 🙁 John O Groats is not somewhere that would be on my bucket list, but it might have been on that of my parents. Very sad when somewhere you want to visit doesn’t live up to expectations. And such a wasted opportunity for the place itself…

    1. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have read the reviews, but I guess we can at least say we’ve been there, if nothing else.

  5. What a shame! The places I’ve been to in Scotland – Isle of Mull, Edinburgh and some places in between – have been wonderful. The Isle of Mull is particularly beautiful. I guess, if I’m honest, Land’s End wasn’t that great but Cornish villages on the way are beautiful. Sounds like the answer is to go ‘almost’ to the end in both cases.

    1. I think so too, although some people in RL have said Lands End is not so bad. Would be difficult to be any worse at the moment tho it may improve after all the work they have started eventually gets finished.

  6. Oops. I prob won’t bother with it then.
    The area itself has so much more.
    We went to lands end.
    I felt it was better than john o groats, but still not worth it other than to say we have done one to the other.
    But Cornwall itself, Lovely.
    Caithness? Lovely!
    Just don’t bother with the ‘work in
    progress’ that is John o Groats.

    1. Lol, you are so right.

  7. Oh dear. But it is all true.
    Though they have lots of ‘plans’ and apparently have been awarded lots of money to improve it. Hmm.
    There was the craft complex but not enough customers to make it worth while for people to take them on.
    The ice cream place is new.
    Was it really extortionate? Oh well, I prob

    1. Plans they may have, but it looks awful. I’m not sure what they hope to get from it, but maybe it is to stop Dunnet Head turning into a commercial enterprise, with the fact that it is perched on a dangerously high cliff that I imagine people can’t help themselves from getting closer and closer to.

  8. Have to say that this pretty much chimes with our view of the place when we went very disappointing.

    1. The hotel is being renovated and it looks like there are lots of chalets going up, but what the people are going to do there is beyond me.

  9. Do you know what else isn’t worth the hype or the visit? Lands End. Don’t bother at all, pretty much the same as John O Groats.

    1. It was absolutely rubbish, I have to say. A complete wasted journey, though people have said that Lands End is actually much better.

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