Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Inn at John O'Groats - End-to-Enders. A Place to Refresh, At Last

Drive -- or walk, or cycle, bless you --  from the southernmost point of England to the northernmost point of Scotland, and you used to be disappointed.  Land's End in Cornwall in the southwest has places to stay, eat, view.  John O'Groats, however, at the northeast, had only a virtually abandoned 1875 hotel, empty since the 1990's.  Find also a trailer park and souvenir place. Those who made the journey as we did were disappointed.  End-to-Enders had to go back the way we came for lodgings.

We can all go back. The Inn has been restored and improved, with character and low-key style, according to the gist of a fine article in the Financial Times, 9a/21-22, 2013 at p.9, Travel: A fresh start for the end of the world.

So: Take any circuitous, arbitrary route to  John O'Groats now, and be disappointed no more. John O'Groats is home to only some 300+ stalwart residents, and now it has an Inn again.  The Inn at John O'Groats.  

The name derives from the 1496 Jan de Groot, an entrepreur who established the first ferry to Orkney and charged a groat for the journey. He was awarded land for his house, from the Earl of Caithness.  Jan built an octagonal house, says Financial Times, because his eight sons were quarrelsome and each needed his own entrance.  The house is gone, but the octagon echoes on in the tower of the new Inn.  Again, we were at John O'Groats before the new Inn, but we are happy to believe the Financial Times. See

Aberdeenshire, Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle.  When castle gates are closed, small visible areas - towers in the distance -- suffice.  Prince Albert rented the castle in 1848 sight unseen, after the royal family had enjoyed visiting the Highlands as a favorite destiination since 1842.  With everybody happy with it, he bought it for Queen Victoria in 1852.  The only problem was the castle itself:   too small, just too small.  So the family lived in it only until a replacement could be built 100 years to the northwest -- and then the old castle was demolished, with only a commemorative memorial stone left to mark the old front door.  Another stone!  At the new castle, Victoria put a parchment marking the date and with currrent sample coins in a bottle and inserted the bottle into the foundation stone.  

Balmoral, Castle, Scotland

Balmoral is not easily found.  Drive around enough, and find a small vista. 

Victoria's will:  the property passed to Edward VII, and then passes to each of his successors.  Fine.