October 03, 2010

Struth! UK's Most northerly hotel a derelict award-winner

John O'Groats "derelict hotel and sheds lurking with tourist intent"
STRUTH !  David Ellis looks at the more weird wacky and wondrous in the world of travel

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that a popular British tourist destination has just won an award it probably won't be bragging about – the town of John O'Groats has been named winner of the 2010 Carbuncle Award for being the most dismal place in Scotland.

John O'Groats – population around 300 – attracts visitors for one main reason: it is the most northerly town in Britain, and therefore the furthest from the other end of the country, Land's End that's 1407.5km (874 miles) to the south.

But apart from this it's got nothing going for it says architecture magazine Urban Realm, that awards the Carbuncle each year. "It's a bleak outpost, notorious for being so desolate – we wonder why we even bothered to go there… it is the most anti-climatic tourist attraction that we know of – and the UK is not lacking in these.

"The main hotel is derelict and the most striking feature is a large car park… various tourist haunts hang around this and give the impression of not wanting to look at each other like early arrivals at a party; the whole effect is augmented by a series of sheds and caravans, lurking with tourist intent."

While that large white Gothic, and now derelict, hotel dominates the town, John O'Groats still attracts some thousands of visitors a year. And it regularly makes it into the nightly news with headline-seekers pushing babies in prams the 1407km from Land's End, riding penny-farthing bikes and in one case a child's scooter along the same route, and even dribbling marbles along a network of roads from Britain's far south to its far north.

And locals are quick to point out that John O'Groats has now got a new Café Bar to augment its several gift shops, a small museum, craft shops, a pottery and candlemaker, and a Tourist Information Centre that sells books of local interest.

And that there's a tourist hotel nearby, various B&Bs and a ferry to Orkney – although only between May and September.

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