Three sites on Skye and in Orkney are being given support to help them prepare for the tourist season, thanks to a new Scottish Government fund.
Plans for a £6 million Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund were announced last autumn – to address notable rises in visitor numbers experienced by some of the most popular destinations in the Scottish countryside.
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop has now revealed that three pilot projects are receiving up to £480,000 towards the completion of urgent works.
· Standing Stones of Stenness: Orkney Islands Council will receive £80,000 to help build a car park at the site, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site
· Fairy Pools, Skye: The Highland Council will receive up to £300,000 on behalf of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland to develop visitor facilities, including toilets, at the Glenbrittle pools and waterfalls
· Neist Point, Skye: TheHighland Council will receive £100,000 towards work to improve road access and parking at the Neist Point lighthouse, a landmark and view point at the western tip of the island
These grants are in addition to the £300,000 of public funding announced by The Highland Council on Monday, for road and parking improvements at both the Fairy Pools and the Quiraing hiking destination in Skye.
Administered by VisitScotland, the fund will be open from April for applications from local authorities, on behalf of their communities. Infrastructure improvements - including parking, camping, visitor facilities and recycling points – will be supported.
Fiona Hyslop said:
“The tourism boom is great news for rural Scotland, bringing jobs and investment to communities. Yet we are also seeing pressures on services, facilities and transport, which is why we are taking action.
“These pilots in Orkney and Skye will quickly deliver benefits and help us finalise the way the scheme operates, before it opens up soon to more applications from around the country.
“I’m determined that we strike the right balance between sustainably growing tourism with carefully managing our iconic and world-leading destinations – so visitors can continue to enjoy them for generations to come.”
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said:
“Scotland’s reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation to ensure that current provision meets future demand. Scotland’s natural beauty and rural heritage continue to be an irresistible draw for visitors from across world and VisitScotland is committed to working closely with partners to identify appropriate infrastructure requirements to help improve the quality of the visitor experience.”
HES Chief Executive Alex Paterson said:
“Enhancing the visitor experience lies at the heart of our investment strategy. We are therefore delighted to be working with the Scottish Government and Orkney Islands Council to improve amenities at the Standing Stones of Sternness site for the benefit of visitors and the wider local tourism economy.”
On behalf of The Highland Council, Eilean a’ Cheò Councillor John Finlayson said:
“This is great news, following on from the announcement earlier this week for the funding packages at Fairy Pools and the Quiraing. All three projects will provide a significant improvement to the visitor experience. Skye is an increasingly popular and unique island and it is important that we meet the needs of the increasing number of tourists who come here, while at the same time also supporting the day to day life styles of our residents.”
Leader of Orkney Islands Council, James Stockan, said:
“The Standing Stones of Stenness have seen increasing pressure over recent years. Any contribution towards upgrading visitor facilities to this popular attraction within our Hearth of Neolithic World Heritage Site is very welcome.”
Full details about the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund criteria and how to apply will be announced shortly by VisitScotland.
The Stones of Stenness has only informal parking, which require regular repairs. Full costs for a permanent car park will be £150,000, with Historic Environment Scotland contributing £50,000 and the council £30,000.
Land at the Fairy Pools transferred from Forest Enterprise Scotland into local community ownership last year, and is now managed by the Minginish Community Hall Association.
The Highland Council announced a package of wider measures for the Fairy Pools and Quiraing in Skye.
The Neist Point grant will contribute towards road resurfacing and creating new parking spaces. Total costs will be £165,000 with the council covering the remaining costs.