Late this summer we fulfilled a lifelong ambition of ours. To visit John O’Groats in Scotland. Prior to our visit, I had scoured the internet for lists of things to do around John O’Groats, but I didn’t really find much. It was only when we reached our destination that I discovered just how much there is to do around John O’Groats.
1. John O’Groats
Let’s begin with the main attraction – the seaside village of John O’Groats! Often mistakenly identified as the most northern tip of mainland Britain. It is in fact one end of the longest distance between two points on mainland Britain. (The other end being Landsend, Cornwall).
Be warned, it would be difficult to spend a full day here. A few quaint shops, a hotel, a quiet harbour and a few cafes are all there is to this landmark.
The famous signpost is an ideal backdrop for photos.
Ferries can be booked from John O’Groats to the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands. Boat trips around the North of Scotland coast are also extremely popular with tourists. These trips offer the perfect opportunity to spot some of the native wildlife, including puffins, seals and whales.
If you’re visiting this famous landmark, you’ll need to find other things to do near John O’Groats. Here are some of our favourites:
2. Dunnet Head
Not John O’Groats, but Dunnet Head is, in fact, the most northern point of mainland Britain. It is but a 30-minute drive from John O’Groats. This beautiful, quiet secluded coast is incredibly windy!
But an absolute pleasure to visit!
3. Dunscaby Head
Dunscaby Head is probably my new favourite destination! I was not prepared for just how beautiful this place was.
It was a long walk from the carpark to the cliffs, but well worth the walk for this spectacular view!
Walking across the fields and taking in the coastal views is a walk I shall never forget!
Aurelia was found some sheep to herd! It was a great place for her to run around and burn off some energy.
On a warm sunny day, I can think of nowhere better to have a picnic and take in the breath-taking views!
4. Achavanich Standing Stones
If you like Stonehenge and all its mysteries, you need to check out the stone settings in the Highlands. The Achavanich Standing Stones is a mysterious field full of stones in a field in the middle of nowhere!
Dating some thousands of years old, this site oozes history! And it is also officially the windiest place one Earth!!!!
5. Hill o’Many Stanes
Another incredible stone setting is the Hill o’Many Stanes. A wonderfully named place which makes full use of the Scottish dialect!
Less windy and easier to photograph than the Achavanich Standing Stones, this site benefits from its fabulous coastal position. It was also a great place to find some beautiful Scottish heather!
Lybster is one of many small fishing harbours close to John O’Groats. These once-thriving harbours now offer quiet secluded stops for tourists to take in the views and do a spot of wildlife watching!
We were told orcas are often spotted in Lybster. We took the opportunity to throw stones into the sea and enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafe.
7. Grey Cairns of Camster
The Grey Cairns of Camster are another pre-historic site close to John O’Groats. The dome-shaped structures date back some 5,000 years.
Archaeologists claim they were used as burial chambers and are some of the oldest structures in Scotland.
If you’re not claustrophobic, you can even enter the cairns as Aurelia did.
8. Castle of Old Wick
More of a ruin than anything else, the Castle of Old Wick clings onto the rocky cliffs. It is a stark reminder of the varied history of the Scottish Highlands.
9. Old Keiss Castle
Old Keiss Castle was not originally on our itinerary but was recommended to us by a local. The castle was about a 15-minute walk from the carpark so not recommended for those with limited mobility.
To my surprise, Aurelia and I were able to walk around the castle and explore some of its many rooms. We could hear crashing waves below the castle which added to the already mystical atmosphere of the site.
For the final item on my list of 10 things to do around John O’Groats, I would just like to say something about where we stayed. My family and I recently discovered glamping. It’s safe to say we have the glamping bug! We simply had to book a glamping pod on our visit to John O’Groats!
We decided to stay at a site named Bower. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the friendly owner of the site, Jenny. She showed us to our pod and told us about the site.
The glamping site is located on a working farm. I had no idea how wonderful of an experience this would be! Each day Aurelia headed to the chicken coop to collect her own eggs. We ate delicious burgers from the farm every day (cooked on the bbq). We even tried venison burgers for the first time!
The glamping pods were extremely comfortable and contained everything needed for a glamping trip. We opted for a deluxe pod which came with a small kitchen, toilet and shower.
This experience will undoubtedly stay with Aurelia for a long time. However, we’re planning a return visit to Jenny’s wonderful farm!
Our Visit to John O’Groats and the Surrounding Area
I was pleasantly surprised at just how much there is to see and do around John O’Groats. The items on this list are all within driving distance and we saw all these sites within a 3 day period.
There are many other sites to visit in the North Highlands, had we had more time, this list would have been much longer! On our return visit, we plan to take a ferry to the Orkney Islands.
The drive through the Highlands is truly breath-taking and makes the long journey from Manchester so much more interesting!