John O’Groats signpost for removal after 57 years

Peter Dymond by the sign which has attracted celebrities and tourists alike. Picture:
Peter Dymond by the sign which has attracted celebrities and tourists alike. Picture:
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IT is probably one of the most photographed signposts in the world, marking the end of Britain’s longest cycle and walking route.

But now the iconic “Journey’s End” signpost at John O’Groats, on the north eastern-most tip of Scotland, is to be removed after 57 years – unless a new caretaker for the monument can be found.

I’ll miss my job here, it’ll be a sad day when I leave

Peter Dymond

Thousands of walkers, cyclists and other fundraisers have been pictured at the site – as well as at its counterpart at Land’s End, 874 miles away in Cornwall.

A photography company based near the other end of the famous route, Courtwood Photographic, owns both signs and offers “personalised” pictures, with the customer’s hometown appearing on the signpost.

However, the photographer who manages the site is leaving and the owner of the famous marker cannot find a replacement in the remote location. Peter Dymond, who has held the position for 16 years, is to relocate to England with his family.

Mr Dymond, who has photographed a string of famous faces at the site – including record-breaking Olympian Sir Chris Hoy, radio presenter Chris Moyles and former MP Michael Portillo – said: “It’ll be the end of a very long tradition. How many businesses have been around for 57 years up here?

“I’ll miss my job here very much – it’ll be a sad day when I do leave John O’Groats.”

He said that he had met many repeat visitors to the site over the years. “We have an American who comes over every year with his mother to the signpost and they’ve been coming for the last dozen years. People come from all over the world and all over the country too.”
Two years ago, the John O’Groats signpost and photographer’s hut were moved to a new base on land near the hamlet’s caravan site but since then, sales have suffered. A new free-to-use sign was erected instead on the original signpost’s site by leisure firm Natural Retreats, which has undertaken a £6 million redevelopment of the area.

In 2010, the area received a Carbuncle Award for “the most dismal place in Scotland” from architectural magazine Urban Realm, which denounced its “air of dereliction” and named the car park near the harbour as its most striking feature.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Creative Scotland have since commissioned a new £118,000 artwork, the “Nomadic Boulders” sculpture, at John O’Groats, which is due to be erected in the autumn in a bid to lure in more visitors.

A spokesman for Courtwood Photographic said: “We have been unable to find a new manager for our John O’Groats operation and therefore consider the best option would be to lease the operation to anyone interested in running the signpost independently. To date, no interest has been shown and therefore the signpost will remain closed until further notice.”