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Signs of the times for John O'Groats' old landmark

IT has been famously pictured by millions of tourists and charity fundraisers as it shows they have arrived at one of the Scottish mainland's most famous northerly outposts.

But now there are plans to tear down the John O'Groats sign, which informs visitors it is 874 miles from Land's End, and move it.

It means travellers arriving at the tourist spot will now have a choice of whether to take pictures for free with a new sign at the spot of the old one, or pay for snaps taken with the historic old one at a caravan park some 200 yards away.

Some have criticised Highland Council after the plans were announced to remove the tradtional 59-year-old sign. Penzance-based Courtwood Photographic Ltd, which owns the famous pointer in Caithness, has been told by Highland Council it has until tomorrow evening to move the post.

The council has handed a 99-year lease for the land to Natural Retreats, a Cheshire-based holiday company that spent £6 million developing a nearby hotel and self-catered holiday homes in the area.

John Green, chairman of the Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council, who also lives in John O'Groats said: "I think it's very harsh what's been done to the sign owners. As a community council we were hopeful they would allow the sign to remain there, but Highland Council have ignored us.

"It's been there for 59 years, it's an iconic sign and people around here would like to see it maintained.

"Although it's owned by a company based in Cornwall, the sign is run by local people. There's always been local people working here."

Natural Retreats will put up their own sign on the same spot as the old one, while Courtwood Photographic have been forced to move the original sign to a John O'Groats caravan site over 200 yards away.

Mr Green urged all tourists to keep going to Courtwood Photographic's sign and raised concerns about the monopoly that Natural Retreats now has over the area. He said: "The new one is static and can't be personalised."

A spokeswoman for Natural Retreats said: "The sign is such an integral part of John O'Groats we feel it is important it is effectively given back to the community by being free to photograph."

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