HIE is investing £1.8 million to support the revitalisation of one of Scotland's most famous visitor locations, John O'Groats.
Having spearheaded the creation of an ambitious masterplan for the area, HIE is supporting two leading UK tourism partners, Heritage GB and Natural Retreats, to deliver a six million pound project.
The first phase will redevelop and extend the derelict John O'Groats House Hotel site providing high quality self catering accommodation. In addition, an exclusive development of luxury self catering lodges will be created. This will incorporate sustainable construction techniques and locally sourced materials including Caithness Stone, home grown timber and turf roofs.
Carol Gunn, head of transformational projects at HIE, commented: "This significant investment from HIE demonstrates our ambition for John O'Groats. Our vision for John O'Groats is to deliver a vibrant social and business community, which has a design to reflect the natural beauty of the location, and which will release economic potential for the whole area. People will visit and stay longer to enjoy what Caithness and Sutherland, and indeed the North Highlands, has to offer."
She added: "The benefits of this development are clear and together HIE, residents, businesses and tourists have created a plan which reflects future needs of the area. Having attracted inward investors Heritage GB and Natural Retreats, the first steps are being taken to make this vision a reality. We believe their commitment will be the catalyst to delivering other aspects of the overall plan."
Ewan Kearney, Natural Retreats Director, commented: "We are delighted that Highlands and Islands Enterprise has shown their ongoing commitment to the project by making this substantial investment. We look forward to commencing development and establishing John O'Groats as a high quality tourist destination."
Allan Leech, CEO at Heritage GB, added: "The outstanding support of HIE continues and the vision we share for the redevelopment of John O'Groats is now becoming a reality. We are totally confident that this landmark destination will set new standards for tourism experiences in the North Highlands."
Four development phases have been identified for John O'Groats. As well as the accommodation provision, there are proposals within the first phase to develop the public areas as well as revamping the LastHouseMuseum and shop and the expansion and upgrading of the Journey's End Café and a number of arts projects.
Later phases will deliver additional commercial space and visitor facilities. Ground work for the self-catering development is expected to start in the Autumn.