John O’Groats Mill



ARCHITECTURE: Future Building or Project


McGregor Bowes


John O'Groats Mill Trust


John O’Groats Mill is the last of the great Caithness corn mills and was in operation until around 2001 when Magnus Houston last worked the mill. In 2016 a new group, the John O’Groats Mill Trust, was created with the vision of restoring the mill buildings, machinery and water systems to full working order, enabling visitors to see a working Caithness mill, and for the wider John O’Groats community to make use of the building for a range of community driven activities. The Trust raised the funds to purchase the mill buildings and adjacent lands and this was carried out with a formal handover in August 2020.

The proposal is to restore the mill building and add an extension on the rear side. The reception is at ground level in the middle section of the building and a lift is enclosed within the reception area. The west wing will contain the mill and interpretation. The new build extension is a single storey building located to the north of the existing mill, the extension comprises a mixed use/education room, service area and a viewing terrace. It has a "green roof“, which merges with the adjacent landscape. 

The design principle for the extension is that the building is tucked into the landscape and the greenery extends over the building like a rug of grass. The extension opens up on the west side with a wall of glazing. The roof of the extension overhangs this glazing to limit solar gain during the summer, but enable it in the winter and shoulder periods. The floor of the extension is made of Caithness slabs to match the floor of the original mill and in the extension it increases the opportunity for creating thermal mass.

On the mill first floor, mill interpretation and mixed use will continue in the west wing. An escape stair route to the north is shown from the main building exiting over the new extension.

The second floor continues the theme of mill use, interpretation and mixed uses. A new stainless steel mesh floor will be installed above the kiln area to replace the life-expired cast iron plates. The space can be used for temporary exhibitions when it is not in use for drying grain. There is also an escape route from this area that leads via a new bridge to a banked up stepped area of the adjacent field.