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John O' Groats House Hotel

Hotel (Period Unassigned), House (Period Unassigned)

Site Name John O' Groats House Hotel

Classification Hotel (Period Unassigned), House (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) John O' Groats House

Canmore ID 9403

Site Number ND37SE 7

NGR ND 3796 7339

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Canisbay
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

ND37SE 7.00 3796 7339

(ND 3796 7339) John o' Groats House (NR) (site of)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1976).

NS37SE 7.01 ND 3792 7336 Proposed Engine House

The site of the house associated with the legend of John o' Groat's building an octagonal house so that each of his eight relatives could enter by his own door. It contained an octagonal table.

The first John Grot on record was granted a charter of a ferry and land in Duncansby in 1496. Of thirty-three succeeding Grots to whom similar charters were granted, nineteen were named John, but Mitchell was of the opinion that the John of the legend was the son of Finlay, who, in 1549, held 'the ferry-house and ferry and 20 feet round the ferry-house'. The last deed is dated 1715 and also mentions the ferry-house, ferry and ferry-boats, implying that the Grots controlled the ferry from 1496 to at least 1715 (Mitchell and Drummond 1875). In the 1720's mention is made of 'the town of Duncansbay only remarkable for John a' Grott's House... Here is the dwelling house of Grott of Wares...' (Macfarlane 1906-8).

At that time ferries were still sailing to Barwick in South Ronaldsay, presumably for 'Ferry Haven (ND 3799 7347 which, in 1873 is 'said to have been the place of embarkation to Stroma and the Orkneys during the earlier times' (Ordnance Survey Name Book [ONB] 1873).

In 1760 "Johnny Grott's House" was in ruins (Pococke 1887) and by 1793 it was 'totally gone but the place where it stood retains the name. The remains of the oak table have been seen by many now living who have inscribed their names on it' (OSA 1793).

'A small triangular grassy mound abaout 30 feet in breadth, rising with a slight elevation from a strip of green pasture ground which runs parallel to the sea-shore' was all that remained in 1873 (ONB 1873), while by 1957 a flagstaff had been erected on the mound (Robertson 1957).

Statistical Account (OSA) 1793; Name Book 1873; A Mitchell and J Drummond 1875; R Pococke 1887; W Macfarlane 1906-8; F W Robertson 1957.

The statement that a flagstaff now indicates the site of John o' Groat's house was confirmed at the Tourist Office, otherwise, no further information.

Visited by OS (J B), 21 July 1982.


Photographic Survey (1900 - 1930)

Photographs by A Brown & Co of sites across Scotland c1900-1930

Standing Building Recording (21 June 2011 - 22 June 2011)

ND 37928 73394 A Level 3 standing building survey was undertaken 21–22 June 2011 of the derelict hotel prior to redevelopment of the harbour. The hotel, built in 1875, was one of the first tourist buildings constructed in John o’ Groats, which as the most northerly settlement in Scotland, was becoming popular as a tourist destination. Today, the harbour is used mainly as a ferry port for tourist trips to Orkney, and a new development commencing in autumn 2011, aims to sustainably regenerate the area.

The hotel is a relatively large building standing prominently to the NE edge of the harbour. At the time of survey, the hotel had not had any paying guests for over 10 years and the bar in the hotel closed down several years ago. The building is no longer watertight and has suffered from a large amount of neglect. The building has serious damp problems, which have destroyed many of the ceiling and floor timbers throughout, as well as the hotel’s furnishings. A photographic, written and drawn record was produced of the building.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: K2 Equity Partners LLP

AOC Archaeology Group, 2011


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