John O’Groats

By Brenda B Taylor

“They wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another.” (Psalm 105:13 NLT)

The northern most district on the mainland of Scotland is the district of Caithness. Over a thousand years ago, Vikings from Scandinavia traversed the Pentland Firth and turned Caithness life upside down. For the next four hundred years, their culture grafted onto the landscape and language. Signs of their language remain in names like, Skirza and Freswick.

Gift shop at John O'Groats

Gift Shop at John O’Groats

John O’ Groats (Taigh Iain Ghròt in Scottish Gaelic) is a village on the northeastern tip of the Highland Council area of Caithness in the Scottish Highlands. It is often called “The start of Great Britain”.


Fishing Boat

Note the ice cream sign on the dock. I’m not sure anyone buys ice cream in the cold, windy village. A cup of hot coffee or chocolate seems more desirable.

Kathy Morrow and Brenda Taylor at John O'Groats

Kathy Morrow and Brenda Taylor at John O’Groats

John O’ Groats is popular with tourists because it is generally regarded as the most northerly settlement on the island of Great Britain, although this is not a claim made by its inhabitants and is in fact false. It is however, one end of the longest distance between two inhabited points on the island of Great Britain, with Land’s End on the far southern end of Great Britain, being the other point. John o’ Groats is 876 miles (1409.78 km) away from Land’s End.

The most northerly point on the island of Great Britain is nearby Dunnet Head.

Dunnet Head Lighthouse

Dunnet Head Lighthouse

Brave pilots rushed out from these shores to help passing ships, less than a hundred years ago. They often became immigrants to foreign lands, because captains didn’t want to stop.

The town is said to be named after John de Groat and his two brothers, who came from Holland with a royal letter of protection and built a house on the site in the 16th century. We visited the site the first of September, and it was cold and windy. Winter time is especially fierce and cold.


The Groats Hotel


Ferry Landing

Ferry Landing

Caithness is sparsely populated and consists mainly of sheep farms. The main town in the district is Thurso, a fishing port on the northern coast of Scotland with a population of 7,300 (est. 2009).




A Kirk in Thurso

A Kirk in Thurso

A Kirk's Steeple in Thurso

A Kirk’s Steeple in Thurso


Kirk where the Queen Mother worshiped when staying at the Castle of Mey.

Kirk where the Queen Mother worshiped when staying at the Castle of Mey.

Castle of Mey, the vacation home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on Caithness, is located not far from John O’Groats. She worshiped in a small kirk while staying in the area.

About Brenda B. Taylor

The desire to write historical fiction has long been a passion with Brenda B. Taylor. Since elementary school, she has written stories in her spare time. Brenda earned three degrees: a BSE from Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas; a MEd from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; and an EdD from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; then worked as a teacher and administrator in the Texas Public School system. Only after retirement could she fulfill the dream of publication. Brenda and her husband make their home in beautiful East Texas where they enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working in Bethabara Faith Ministry, Inc. She crafts stories about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people in her favorite place overlooking bird feeders, bird houses, and a variety of blooming trees and flowers. She sincerely thanks all who purchase and read her books. Her desire is that the message in each book will touch the heart of the reader as it did hers in the writing.
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6 Responses to John O’Groats

  1. Great photos! I visited John O’ Groats one time in June and it was very cold, windy and cloudy with a lot of mist and fog. Believe it or not, I bought ice cream there and ate it on the tour bus. LOL! The hotel looks lots better than it did when I was there.

  2. I think I was about 17 when I went there with my mum. We looked just like you and Kathy did in photos: cold, windswept, not exactly thrilled. But it is a place to see and to feel you’ve experienced the tip of Scotland.

    Good for you making it up there.
    Best wishes,

  3. This is fascinating. Thanks for the pictures as well.

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