Media Release: Lost beaches of Caithness to be commemorated in sculpture trail

Gavin Lockhart quarrying stone for John O'Groats path project.

SUTHERLAND-based artist, Gavin Lockhart, has been commissioned to undertake the next stage of public art at John O’Groats, with a series of works celebrating the dramatic and changing coastline of Caithness.

Following a public meeting last year on the future artistic shape of John O’Groats, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) sought professional artists to transform the coast around the village.

Titled ‘Path’, Gavin’s concept is to create permanent artworks along the coastal paths at John O’Groats.

These will be designed to create a reminder of the beaches that used to dominate the coast – before much of the sand was removed for the war effort during World War Two. Sand from the once-famous 2.5 mile-long beach was used as a soil improver on fields due to its high shell content as part of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.

The artist, who created the popular sail project at the John O’Groats Transform weekend last year, plans to develop a trail of six Caithness stones leading people along the path to view the outstanding coastline across the Pentland Firth to Orkney.

Each stone will be carved with images taken from photographs of similar beaches to those originally at John O’Groats and placed to allow use as seating and rest areas.

The work should be in place by summer 2012.

Gavin commented: “It’s a shock to realise that this rugged, rocky shore was in living memory a beautiful white sandy beach and deserves us to look upon this landscape with a little more consideration of its historical sacrifice.”

Nick Scroggie, from HIE, said: “When commissioning this work we were looking for something inspiring which strongly reflected the unique nature of Caithness while also having a practical use.

“Engaging both local people and visitors in the rich natural environment is a key part in transforming John O’Groats into an international destination. Gavin’s artwork will hopefully inspire people to explore the unique landscape of John O’Groats and beyond.

“John O’Groats is on a major international cycle route and has wildlife and scenery as inspiring as anything found across the world. The Path project aims to encourage visitors and walkers to stay longer and take some time to explore the area.”

HIE has spearheaded the transformation at John O’Groats, working with visitors, businesses and the community to develop the masterplan. The agency is also investing £1.8 million towards a £6 million luxury accommodation project, in a private and public sector collaboration between Natural Retreats, Heritage Great Britain and HIE.

The ‘Path’ project has a budget of £15,000 – which is to include the materials, creation and installation of the work.

The beach stones are to be sourced from the beautiful Caithness flagstones from a local quarry with local craftsmen and the stone carving undertaken by Sutherland Stonework of Golspie. Talks are underway as to the final locations of each of the stones.

HIE is investing £50,000, which has been matched with £58,500 of European LEADER funding, to deliver a range of projects to ensure that creative involvement is an integral part of the transformation of John O’Groats.

Further details on the transformation of John O’Groats are available at or follow us on Facebook

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Contact: HIE Communications
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