By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 21st August 2018

Business of the Month: Natural Retreats

Jessica Haney

We spoke to Jessica Haney, Marketing Manager for Natural Retreats, our luxury accommodation partner, located at the “end of the road” in John o’Groats.

Nestled away in an area of outstanding beauty and dramatic Scottish landscapes, Natural Retreats John O’Groats boasts an array of luxurious accommodation; from glass-fronted lodges to contemporary colourful apartments – just eleven miles north of the most northerly point on mainland Britain. John O’Groats is also popular for those starting/ending the famous ‘End to End journey’ to or from Land’s End in England, some 876 miles away.

Jessica talks us through some of the highs of the NC500 and what Natural Retreats can offer today’s adventurer!

1.Hello Jessica! Can you tell us a little about yourself, and your position at Natural Retreats?

Hi! I’ve been the Marketing Manager here at Natural Retreats since the beginning of 2018, having worked as the Marketing Executive since 2015. My team are responsible for showcasing the very best that our retreats have to offer, to new and returning customers across the globe. Whether refining our website, publishing exciting new stories to our social media, creating beautiful collateral or getting hands-on with events and exhibitions, we take immense pride in presenting the Natural Retreats brand both online and offline.

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Photos:Natural Retreats Inn Apartments and Lodges, by Elly Ball

2. What makes Natural Retreats the perfect place to relax after a North Coast 500 adventure?

With our brightly-coloured tofts and the white tips of the crashing waves rising up over the horizon as you journey down the entrance road, guests and visitors are rewarded with an incredible sense of arrival at Natural Retreats. In years gone by, the once-neglected John O’Groats hotel proved an anti-climax for many who’d travelled far and wide to this iconic landmark, but Natural Retreats have breathed new life into the area and transformed the accommodation into an unexpected haven of luxury. For weary explorers, we offer sumptuous beds, contemporary bathrooms and complimentary hampers stuffed with local goodies (for those joining us for two nights or more). There is still a huge emphasis placed on our natural surroundings, with floor-to-ceiling windows in place to enjoy the breath-taking vistas outside. Our friendly (but non-intrusive) staff are on-hand at all times, with our concierge team also only a phone-call away.

Photo: Natural Retreats Inn by Elly Ball

i) Tell us about your onsite café…

Our Storehouse Café (located a short stroll from the famous John O’Groats sign and our luxury accommodation) is open to both guests and day visitors alike, serving a wide selection of warming snacks, delicious Starbucks coffee and other refreshing treats. With a cosy log-burning fire and spectacular views of the Pentland Firth, the Storehouse offers a relaxed spot to take in the beauty of this incredible location before heading off on your travels again.

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Photos of the Storehouse Cafe by Elly Ball

ii) With the winter months getting busier, what makes visiting Natural Retreats special in the winter?

Photo: Natural Retreats Lodges by Elly Ball

Our sea-view lodges in particular offer an incredible winter hideaway. With log-burning fires, cosy blankets and far-reaching views out to sea, there’s nowhere finer to snuggle up when the temperature drops outside. Some of our guests love to sit out on the deckchairs on the private decks, wrapped up, watching the Aurora Borealis and the clear night sky with a frothy hot chocolate in hand. During the day, our neighbouring white-sand beaches offer a magical walking trail with plenty of opportunities for incredible snapshots and shell-hunting.

iii) Do you get a lot of visitors taking advantage of the fact you offer dog friendly accommodation?

Definitely! Our resident NR pup (Stinky Pete) proves a fantastic example of how our retreat is perfectly suited to four-legged friends. The lodges offer handy boot rooms for sandy paws and our team know the best local walkies for all to enjoy. If you take a look at our Instagram feed, you’ll be able to see re-shares of some of our guests and their pets.

3. What sort of sights and activities can Natural Retreats and the John O’Groats area offer?

Our on-site team have their finger on the pulse of the best local activities and events, but if guests are in the process of pre-planning their stay, we have a dedicated John O’Groats App (available on all App Stores) that is crammed full of suggestions. Whether jumping on the John O’Groats ferry and exploring the Orkneys, tasting Highland tipples in one of the many fantastic local distilleries or beach-hopping with a map and a sense of adventure, there’s so much to see and do.

4. John O’Groats is blessed with some of the finest wildlife in the UK, what can visitors see in the area?

Alongside the brilliant RSPB Nature Reserve at Dunnet Head, home to incredible seabirds of all shapes and sizes, guests can catch glimpses of plump grey seals, puffins and even on the rare occasion orca, dolphins and minke whales!

5. We have been working with Natural Retreats for a couple of years now. How has the NC500 impacted the local area? And how has our partnership benefited Natural Retreats?

Our partnership with the North Coast 500 has led to a noticeable increase in short stays in our Inn building, with a hugely positive impact on the local area too in terms of visitor numbers. As one of the most iconic landmarks along the 500 miles, it’s been wonderful to meet all of the new arrivals and witness their excitement in exploring our Highland sanctuary.

Photo: Duncansby Head, by Andrew Dowsett Photography

6. What do you hope for the future of the North Coast 500?

Even more international exposure, so those from across the globe can explore the beauty of the Highlands. It would be great to see even more smaller businesses raise their profile from this incredible route too.

7. Do you have any tips for fellow businesses along the route?

Ensure you take full advantage of the incredible expertise of the NC500 team, they have a wonderful platform to raise awareness of your business and are always ready and waiting to provide ideas and inspiration!

8. And finally, how much of the North Coast 500 have you travelled? Do you have a hidden gem you would like to share with us?

I’ve been able to complete the 120-mile stretch up the spectacular East coast from Inverness to John O’Groats, where one of the highlights has to be driving past Dunrobin Castle. The coastline just gets better and better the more you explore, and I can’t wait to take on the other two-thirds of the journey next year!

Photo: Dunrobin Castle, near Golspie

For more information on what we offer, visit our website here: https://naturalretreats.co.uk/destinations/scotland/john-ogroats

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