Walking the John o' Groats Trail

Coastal walking from Inverness to John o' Groats

By Andy Robinson, Jay Wilson

Guidebook to the John O' Groats Trail, a 235km long-distance walk from Inverness to John O' Groats in the far north of Scotland. The trail boasts stunning coastal scenery and fantastic cliff-top walking, while attractive towns and villages offer accommodation. It can be completed in around a fortnight.


Spring is the best time for this walk, with a lot of daylight. There is more undergrowth in the summer, and more visitors means accommodation may be harder to find.


Inverness, Tain, Dornoch, Brora, Helmsdale, Wick, John o' Groats


The northern half of the Trail is challenging, mainly following rough clifftops, often close to the edge and across rough ground. There are also fences to cross. The southern half is relatively straightforward, but overall this route is not recommended for less experienced walkers.

Must See

Some of the most spectacular sea-cliff scenery in Britain, with many sea stacks, sea arches and caves; ruined medieval castles perched on the cliff edges; vast empty beaches and sand-dune systems; seals, ospreys, eider ducks and large numbers of other seabirds; varied woodland
13 Feb 2023
17.20 x 11.60 x 1.10cm

Guide to the John o' Groats Trail, a 233km walking route linking Inverness with John o' Groats on the northeast tip of mainland Britain. Much of the walking is coastal, with the northern half characterised by its spectacular seacliffs; however, there is some inland walking too, and the scenery is varied, ranging from dunes and deserted sandy beaches to beautiful woodland. With rough ground and some exposed clifftop walking, the route is suited to experienced hikers. It takes around a fortnight to complete.

The route is described in 14 stages, each of which includes: an overview map; step-by-step route description illustrated with custom mapping; details of accommodation, facilities and transport links; and information on local points of interest. While the main route description is from south to north, notes are supplied for southbound walkers. Also included is a bonus route linking the trail with the Great Glen, for the benefit of walkers undertaking the Land's End to John o' Groats challenge. There is a wealth of information to help you plan for the John o' Groats Trail, including advice on transport, weather, hazards and kit, and background notes on geology and wildlife.

This challenging route crosses a part of the country that not many walkers are familiar with. There are plentiful opportunities to spot wildlife and seabirds, with grey seals, common seals and ospreys a common sight. There are ruined medieval castles on the cliff edges, as well as many sea arches and stacks. John o' Groats is renowned as mainland Britain's most northeasterly village and the John o' Groats Trail offers a chance to experience this fascinating and beautiful corner of the country.

Table of Contents

Andy Robinson

Andy Robinson has been walking around the hills and mountains for more years than he cares to admit to, and is a mean hand with a map and compass.  He has a habit of setting off on unreasonably optimistic expeditions and usually gets away with it.  But not always.  His family is very supportive and puts up with a lot, but he’s not quite sure why. 

Andy Robinson is the author of The End to End Trail – Land’s End to John o’ Groats on Foot and has worked together with Jay Wilson to create a guide to the John o' Groats Trail.

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Jay Wilson

Jay Wilson is the founding chair of the Friends of the John o' Groats Trail. He had the principal guiding role in the creation of the Trail. In 2014, Jay walked from Drumnadrochit to John o' Groats, looking for a walking route connecting the Great Glen Way to John o' Groats avoiding A-roads but providing access to accommodation. In 2015 Jay was back, walking from Inverness this time, and talking to local walking groups along the way about developing a marked trail. In June 2016 the Friends of the John o' Groats Trail was founded as a charity. Later that year, Andy Robinson called Jay and they decided to work together on a guidebook for the new trail.

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