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Saturday02 August 2014

Dismal John O’Groats to receive ‘fun’ makeover

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Edinburgh practice GLM has won planning permission for a £6.5 million scheme to revitalise John O’Groats – recently dubbed the most dismal place in Scotland

Plans for the “fun” redevelopment of the UK’s most northerly village, with a design inspired by the area’s historic links with Scandinavia, have been approved by Highland Council.

Work on 23 timber holiday homes and a visitor centre is due to start next year.

The proposals aim to enhance the tourist experience at an area currently described by the Lonely Planet guide as being dominated by “shoddy craft and souvenir shops” and not worth the journey.

Under the new plans the John O’Groats Hotel, which has lain empty for a decade, will be turned into 19 self-catering apartments and the Journey’s End Café will be remodelled.

Ewan Kearney, a spokesman for holiday firm Natural Retreats which will operate the centre, said: “People tend to come and visit but there’s nothing to keep them there, even though the area has everything from wildlife to history and is a potential hub from which to go north and visit the islands.”

GLM managing director Ian McKee said: “Our designs include the complete refurbishment and major extension of the Scottish baronial John O’Groats Hotel and the creation of a self-catering [apartment hotel] containing 19 unique apartments.

“The landmark Victorian hotel will be stripped of its unsightly accretions and restored to its former stark splendour. Against this the coloured timber structures of the extension will provide a splash of colour against a bleak landscape.”

The development will use local materials such as Caithness stone, Scottish larch timber and turf roofs, and is aiming for Breeam “excellent” levels of sustainability. It is hoped the centre will open in spring 2012.

Project architect Neil McAllister said he had been inspired by the area’s historic connections with Scandinavia. “I wanted to create a reinterpretation of the vernacular that echoes the pure gabled form with a contemporary twist to create a piece of fun,” he said.

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