Agents have been appointed to attract new investors and developers to realise ambitious plans for expansion at the iconic location of John O’Groats by the owners of the site Heritage GB and Natural Assets.
The location has undergone a dramatic transformation already in the last few years, evolving from what was a somewhat disappointing destination – particularly for the many charitable explorers who reach John O’Groats at the start or the end of the longest trek in the UK – to a place with award-winning accommodation and shops.
As part of Highlands & Island Enterprise backed multi-million-pound regeneration of the area, 23 luxury residences were launched in 2012, the Storehouse and Last House-Outfitters also opened in that year.
The the restoration and Norse style extension of the John O’Groats hotel, originally built in 1875, into the Inn at John O’Groats and its self-catering apartments, opened in 2013.
Overlooking the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, the site is famous for lying on the north-eastern point of one end of the longest distance between two inhabited points on the British mainland, with Land’s End in Cornwall 876 miles to the southwest.
As a destination, John O’Groats has benefited significantly from the regeneration and the investment and growth of other operators in the area.
Furthermore, the North Coast 500 has become highly successful in both the domestic and international tourism markets.
The wider region is also starting to see the economic benefits of MeyGen, the world’s largest tidal energy plant, in the Pentland Firth, which will see long-term onshore benefits and opportunities.
Outline planning consent is now in place for a masterplan development of the wider John O’Groats site, around a series of six zones, offering a broad range of opportunities, which joint agents Shepherd Chartered Surveyors and Strutt & Parker will promote.
Development in each zone will take place as and when demand and investment is present.
The six zones include the harbour front and public realm buildings; a pedestrian square, including food and beverage, retail and small residential units; the natural retreats site with holiday accommodation and a park; and a zone for artisan units such as a micro-brewery, distillery, or weavers.
There is also a potential pavilion building at the heart of a village green and a residential quarter which could feature family housing, detached cottages, villas and terraced houses plus a market garden or allotments.
Euan MacCrimmon at Strutt & Parker, says: “We are very excited about the opportunity, particularly given that John O’Groats is very much enjoying a surge in popularity, following the last five years of large-scale new developments.
“It is unique and quite an open book in terms of what the planners have given permission for.
“Developers, investors and tenants are being asked to come forward with ideas and they are looking at a variety of types of occupancy or investment.
“At the upper level are the larger house builders but the owners are also welcoming approaches from individual boutique retailers, for example, so it is a really wide remit.”
He says that the task now is to find the right partners to develop the site further.
“We are joint agents with Shepherd to make the marketing as broad as possible.
“We have national UK coverage with a comprehensive residential arm, whereas Shepherd have a strong commercial presence in Scotland, so between us we probably cover every part of the market.”