Exploring Scotland: John O’Groats

I couldn’t not start a series on my blog talking about all my favourite places in Scotland and not mention one of the most visited and iconic spots. Plus it is (or was when I was at home) pretty much on my doorstep.

Growing up in the Highlands I have seen a lot of change when it comes to my local area, most notably in John O’Groats. Started in 2009 John O’Groats had a major facelift with the restoration of the hotel (which now looks amazing, although I am yet to see the inside of it), a new harbour square and the restoration of the commercial units (read more about it here). On top of this there is the addition of a recently opened Brewery and of-course the infamous sign.

Plus if you are looking for somewhere to stay there is also the lodges that were put up along with the development of the centre of John O’Groats, check them out here and of course the previously mentioned restored hotel which is by the same company and can be found on the aforementioned like.

I know that John O’Groats has never been some sort of hidden gem but I’d love to highlight the fact there is a lot more than just a sign in this lovely spot. There are a lot of independent, local businesses who are more than deserving of your support. So, I thought I’d highlight some of my favourites so you can plan out your visit and truly enjoy the amazing part of the highlands.

Eating

Stacks Coffee House & Bistro

From their Facebook @Stacks Coffee House and Bistro

Stacks is a must visit if you head to John O’Groats. I love their food and the inside is beautifully decorated and brings you a much needed sense of calm and warmth. Which is most likely highly necessary when you are visiting John O’Groats. They have a wide selection of seating with a log burner taking centre stage, plus they are dog friendly so what’s not to love!

Stacks are a family run business and often switch up their menu with amazing new dishes! While also offering cakes and special items to make you *extremely* happy.

One of my favourite dishes is their Mac and cheese toasted flatbread with crispy bacon, pictured here. The menu is filled with fresh and often healthy options so perfect if you are or know someone vegan.

Check out their socials for covid updates. The last time I was in it was more like a grab and go operation and we picked up a great selection of tray bakes!

Also from @Stacks Coffee House and Bistro Facebook page

Flavours

Probably one of the most talked about stops in John O’Groats, Flavours is a much loved day out for both tourists and locals. They have an impeccable selection of ice cream, toppings, sauces and confectionery to keep your sweet tooth happy for the afternoon.

A local business set up in 2012, there is no John O’Groats without Flavours. You may be wondering why you’d want ice cream when more often than not it is rather cold. Well, the ice cream is that good, you will want it in any weather, trust me.

Flavours have handled covid really well and the shop is set out with the upmost care. Plus the staff are lovely! See you just have to go a visit to see it for yourself now!

The Storehouse

Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the Storehouse and it is currently closed because of Covid. However, when it reopens and you want your hit of Starbucks coffee then this is the place to go. They offer a simple menu and have a little store of local goods to try out. I wasn’t hugely impressed with their offering but if you are looking for somewhere relatively simple with a great view then check them out.

The Seaview Hotel

I am purposely putting this here because I’ve never actually tried the food from the hotel (which is just as you turn into the long road to go into John O’Groats). However, I have heard really good things about it so if you want to add to my recommendation please do! I’d love some additional info on the place or to hear your own experience.

Visiting

John O’Groats Brewery Experience.

After only opening late July, this visitor experience is definitely one to try if you love beer and supporting local businesses. The John O’Groats Brewery have taken the brewing scene by storm, when working in a restaurant in my hometown last year the beer was flying out the door (or shall I say keg).

Set at the front of John O’Groats, my flatmate Mara thoroughly enjoyed her visit (I unfortunately haven’t been able to go yet but I must admit I am not a beer drinker. Mara, however loves the stuff).

They are also including a small bar in their experience (also yet to open) so you can try it right there.

Image from their Facebook @John o Groats Brewery

The experience itself is yet to open as of writing this however the shop is. So you can get yourself some great local beers right from the company itself!

Plus they also sell some merchandise, beer glasses (which are extremely affordable and well made) and they also stock some lovely local artists.

Mara was lucky enough to get a taster of the experience and was thoroughly impressed by what she was shown. So, if you are in the area now, defiantly go in a look and keep in mind that you should definitely go back once the full experience is up and running.

Image courtesy of their website

Puffin Croft

Puffin Croft is one of the best places to go for a wonder, especially if you have kids. Set amongst the owners home it is on the outskirts of John O’Groat, it is truly a lovely experience. They also sell produce which can be bought via an honesty box. Keep an eye out for the animals names to give you a giggle!

Go a Walk

I know this is probably one of the most obvious suggestions out there but Scotland, especially the highlands is known for its scenery. John O’Groats is especially lucky to be surrounded by both a lovely green landscape and the harbour/sea. This way you get the best of both worlds. Plus with the revamp it now boasts striking sculptural art, a newly done sign and some fabulous architecture.

Shopping

I wouldn’t say John O’Groats is overly known for its shopping however there are a few gift shops who stock local artists and memoirs which can remind you of your journey.

  • First & Last in Scotland is a small shop set right on the harbour front and is full of your cheesy mementos and local produce. There is probably enough magnets to last you a lifetime!
  • John O’Groats Knitwear and Cafe offer a traditional experience to shop for the most lavish wools and cashmeres. They also have a cafe in the back if you are in need of a pit stop
  • The North Coast Emporium is a large shop filled with local artists selling a range of different things from gifts, clothes and jewellery. It’s a great place to support local artists while purchasing something truly unique.

I hope you enjoyed my quick virtual tour of my favourite spots in John O’Groats. The place really has grown and now offers you not only spectacular views but numerous places to visit so you can make the most of your journey.

You can now spend all day in John O’Groats leaving fully satisfied and blown away by what’s on offer. Now more than ever local businesses need your support so go show them some love!

Make sure to tag me (@sophieseditblog on instagram or @sophiesedit on Facebook) if I influenced your decision to visit or similarly if you want to share your own experience please do!

Looking for somewhere else to visit? Check out my previous post on Dornoch here.

Where should I visit next? Let me know down below!

Much love,

Sophie x


Print shop is available here.