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


Exploring Scotland: Dornoch

I am very well aware that Scotland is my home country and exploring it may seem a bit odd however, there are so many hidden gems that I am yet to see and what better way to share them than in a blog post.

I thought I would start a mini series on the blog that is purely focussed on showcasing lovely spots around Scotland. Not that I am made of money or will be travelling a lot (however if anyone wants to fund that sorta thing feel free to get in contact (I am sort of joking, secretly sorta not). Instead I’ll be posting about spots I find on a basis of spontaneity, so enjoy!

Dornoch is a town situated an hour from Inverness. It is especially quaint and picturesque with their town centre being immaculately looked after. Filled with cute little restaurants and quirky shops, a day in Dornoch is a day well spent.

Shops

Each time I go to Dornoch something new has opened and with the current situation there is never a better time to support small independent businesses.

Charity Shops – The Highland Hospice

Dornoch’s charity shop game is not one to be scoffed at. As of my knowledge they have two (who stock clothes, accessories, home goods etc.) and they are both worth a look. Unfortunately the cute one that is in a church is shut at the moment because of Coronavirus but when it reopens I highly recommend giving it a try; I found a second hand mens Ralph Lauren polo shirt for £10 once.

The next one (and the charity shop that features in the above photo and the two below) is the Highland Hospice. I am not sure who curates the items for the shop but the layout and vintage charm of the place makes it an extra special experience.

I bought a red thick knit for only £12 and I swear there is probably an item in there for everyone. Their Covid measures were great (hand sanitiser on the door plus only two people in at a time) and the women at the till was lovely. Overall a great experience and a shop that is both helping you add pieces to your wardrobe sustainably while providing you with a warm and eclectic atmosphere.

Dornoch Bookshop

A great place for kids and adults alike, the bookshop is bright on the outside and charmingly small on the inside.

I have to say it might be difficult to navigate when busy but if you are able to get in when its quiet you could easily spend 30 mins admiring the lovely selection of books.

They have a variety of kids, history, science fiction and Scottish books on show (plus many more) so if you’re looking for anything in particular its a great place to seek out the newest release while finding some great pieces of older fiction as well.

As you can see from the first photo they also have some random bits and pieces to keep the kids entertained. It’s a win win.

Becca Mac – Ladies and Gents Fashion Store

If you are looking for a bit of ‘high street’ fashion but independently bought then this is the place to go. Newly opened in September 2019, this shop has brought upmarket mainstream fashion to the highlands. Ranging in price the shop is beautifully decorated and immaculately looked after. Plus the ladies in the store are extremely helpful and kind. I bought a chunky knit cardigan (can you tell I’m getting prepared for autumn), which is both fantastically made and will last *hopefully* for years to come. Stocking both men and women’s clothes I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Dornoch Stores

@birkwood on instagram

Now if you are a huge foodie like me and like to try new and interesting things then this is the place to go. I will never go to Dornoch and not visit this place. They offer a multitude of fresh ingredients, baking, coffees, teas, local produce and a variety of different sauces/foods you’ve never heard of. The layout is great and they offer things I’ve honestly never seen anywhere else (especially outwith the city). If you are a local or are staying in Dornoch they also offer a freezer section full of homemade meals, croissants, chips and a load of other foods to satisfy your appetite.

I recommend picking up some of the strawberries or raspberries they have sitting out on the counter alongside a Mango dressing which honestly is one of the best I’ve ever tried.

I only wish they’d open in my hometown.

Eating

I must admit I have not tried every restaurant in Dornoch but I have tried two. I’ll leave all other restaurants at the bottom of this section.

Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey is another relatively new addition to Dornoch. It’s a cafe that specialises in coffee, tea, spiced milk & honey (which is seriously something you need to try) and food; brunch, lunch and cakes. Its a cute little spot that definitely leans more on the modern/clean side of things.

Kirsty, Mara and Katie (all of whom I visited Dornoch with – don’t worry we were extremely safe) had the Asian Pulled Pork toasted sourdough sandwich with either salad or lentil soup. All of whom gave the dish rave reviews. I had the Chicken Cesar Wrap with a side of chips. I wouldn’t say it was anything special but likewise there was nothing wrong with it. To drink however I had the spiced milk and honey. Which is what I would describe as Christmas in a cup, it was delicious and extremely warming. I couldn’t finish it purely because the spices are a lot to take but all the same it was delicious.

spiced milk and honey
Chicken Cesar Wrap and Katie’s Pulled Pork sandwich and soup

To add to this we shared a chocolate cake and a mars bar slice. The mars bar slice was probably on its last legs and definitely tasted like something I could have made at home. However, the chocolate cake was a solid 10/10. Moist and filled with the right amount of chocolate I would definitely go back for more. Plus it was a huge slice of cake.

Luigi’s

Fishcakes, Grilled Peach and Parma Ham salad and a Duck and Cashew salad.

I’m gonna keep this review short and sweet. Luigi’s is a popular restaurant in Dornoch, often very busy. They serve great food in a lovely space. However, when I visited recently (about a month ago) their covid measures were disappointing and made me feel uncomfortable. Yes they did have hand sanitiser and masks but the masks were rarely where they should have been and more often than not staff members were a lot closer than they should have been. If you want more information I did a review on my instagram (@sophieseditblog). The food don’t get me wrong is delicious I just wish they were more attentive when it came to social distancing measures and wearing their masks.

Other restaurants to try in Dornoch;

  • Dornoch Castle Restaurant
  • The Courtroom Dornoch
  • Royal Golf Hotel
  • Cocoa Mountain

Explore

I always say the best way to explore somewhere new is going a wonder. Being a big lover of architecture and interior design, one of my favourite things to do is explore and admire my surroundings. You never know where you might stumble upon.

We decided once we had walked around the idyllic centre of town (which apart from the photo at the very start of this post, I didn’t really get many photos of *a complete fail on my part*) we decided to go find the beach, which I did get some photos of.

Being lovers of the sea air, Dornoch beach was a great size. However, it was sitting in between/behind the caravan camp site and the golf course so it is good to be wary of that during the current pandemic. It would be great to sit at if the sun was shining either with a fish supper or a picnic. Guess I’ll have to go back?


Even then I say we probably didn’t see all of what Dornoch had to offer but this is a good start. Let me know if you end up going a visit or if you have any other recommendations.

Also if you have any suggestions of where I should feature next then let me know in the comments.

Lots of love,

Sophie x


Print shop is available here.