John O’Groats Masterplan, Caithness Building, Scottish Project, Design, Property, Image

John O’Groats Redevelopment

Building in northern Scotland design by GLM, Architects

31 Jan 2014

John O’Groats Hotel Completion

Design: GLM

The Victorian baronial-style John O’ Groats Hotel had been left to rot for more than 15 years. The depressing scene had gradually drained the life out of the place but still the visitors came, were disappointed, and left. The project was conceived and inspired by GLM’s client Natural Retreats, who four years ago envisioned what has taken material form today: the hotel has been dramatically restored, revitalised and re-launched as The Inn at John O’ Groats.

Atholl Crescent 1

Although it would have been cheaper to demolish,the decision was taken to restore, remodel and add the colourful Nordic inspired timber clad extension. The Inn at John O’ Groats now offers 16 luxury holiday apartments in a range of sizes with dramatically framed views and stylish interiors designed in conjunction with interior designers NoChintz.

As well as The Inn, GLM have been responsible for the construction of 23 luxury holiday self-catering residences, a completely remodelled co-operative café selling local produce and dishes, and The Outfitters, an activity centre and retail space formed within in the famous “Last House.”

John O’Groats Hotel Completion information / image from GLM Architects

17 Nov 2010

John O’Groats Proposals

John O’Groats Receives Green Light For New Lease Of Life Multi-Million Pound Investment Will Transform Nation’s Disgrace

Taking design inspiration from Scandinavia, a detailed planning application submitted by Edinburgh-based architects GLM to redevelop and transform John O’Groats (winner of the 2010 Carbuncle Award – Most dismal town in Scotland) so as to realise its full potential as a major tourist destination has been given the go-ahead by Highland Council.

Working on behalf of a joint venture partnership between Natural Retreats and Heritage Great Britain, GLM’s imaginative architectural plans for the John O’Groats Redevelopment will breathe new life into a desolate area adjacent to the harbour area, to make John O’Groats a destination that will live up to its famous name.

Former John o’Groats Hotel redevelopment:
John O'Groats Masterplan John O'Groats Hotel
images from architects

Full planning approval has been granted for the first stage proposal for a multi-million pound revitalisation, incorporating the alteration and extension of the former John o’Groats Hotel to form luxury self-catering holiday apartments and the development of new detached holiday properties.

Second-stage proposals include improving the public realm harbour area and creating a multi-use visitor centre.

Construction is due to start in earnest in Spring 2011 with completion of the ten acre site planned for Summer 2012. GLM’s designs include the complete refurbishment of and a major extension to the Scottish baronial John O’Groats hotel, (which has lain empty and boarded up for over a decade) as well as the construction of 23 self-catering timber-clad holiday residencies and a completely remodelled Journeys End Cafe. The landmark hotel will be transformed into a self-catering ‘aparthotel’ with 19 apartments.

By using sustainable construction techniques using locally sourced materials including Caithness stone, home-grown timber and turf roofs, the completed development will be pitched at the ‘excellent’ level in terms of the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating, in line with Natural Retreat’s Green Tourism Gold standards.

Ian McKee, managing director of GLM, explained: “The planning process in Scotland has undergone a revolution in recent months and we are naturally delighted that our professional team has got to grips with all the idiosyncrasies of the new system and successfully steered the application through on its first submission. We consulted the local community and worked with them throughout the design stage to create a lively and cheerful design and this, together with a sensitive approach to the local environment, was key to the early success of the planning application.

“Importantly, this new development will help create construction jobs and, when complete, will provide a much-needed boost to the local community.”

Natural Retreats’ managing director Matt Spence said: “Natural Retreats is delighted to receive approval for these exciting plans which will help to revitalise this area and create much needed jobs in the local community. John O’Groats is a world famous destination and being able to play a part in helping to restore it to prominence with the kind of development this location deserves, is something we are incredibly proud to be involved with.

“With the approval of these plans we will now be able to deliver a new vision for John O’Groats and ensure that visitors feel inspired, informed and educated by their experience. In particular we are looking forward to continuing to work with the local community as well as the Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise to deliver a sympathetic development.”

Chief executive of Heritage GB, Allan Leech, added: “With both Heritage Great Britain and Natural Retreats’ proven track records in delivering financially sustainable leisure and tourism destinations in the UK, we always felt these plans would be well received and we are delighted the Highland Council has shared in our vision.”

The landmark Victorian hotel which has been derelict for many years will be stripped of its unsightly accretions, fully refurbished, re-harled and painted to restore its former splendour. Against this foil will be set the coloured timber structures of the extension. Their deeper colours and domestic scale massing will enhance this landmark and provide a splash of colour against a bleak landscape and become fun and a true destination in itself.

GLM is an architectural, design and project management consultancy based in Edinburgh. Working throughout the whole of the UK, GLM delivers turnkey and bespoke projects for a wide range of clients in various market sectors. GLM specialises in the imaginative, sustainable, sensitive and commercial refurbishment, adaptation and reuse of historic, Listed or unusual buildings. For more details on the John O’Groats design, visit:

Natural Retreats
Natural Retreats offers luxurious, sustainable self catering and short break holidays in areas of breathtaking natural beauty. Its first site in the UK opened in 2006 in the Yorkshire Dales. That development has received numerous accolades including Travel Bulletin’s Green Initiatives award. Natural Retreats also offers a selection of short breaks at stunning locations in Cornwall, North Wales and across a number of outstanding locations in Ireland including County Cork, County Kerry, County Limerick and County Roscommon. For more information on Natural Retreats, its philosophy and selection of properties, please visit

Heritage Great Britain
Heritage Great Britain PLC is the name behind some of the United Kingdom’s most outstanding and beautiful landmark destinations and its most popular visitor attractions and is committed to maintaining and developing the country’s heritage sensitively and responsibly for the benefit of all, and providing exciting and stimulating days out for our customers. For more information about Heritage GB please visit

John O’Groats Masterplan by GVA Grimley Ltd with Robert Adam Architects

Summary of Proposal:


15 Oct 2009

John O’Groats Masterplan

John O'Groats Plan
images from architect

Location: John O’Groats, Scotland

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