Skye could be turned into the “world’s first bilingual Geopark” as part of a new strategy to alleviate pressure on the island’s tourist hotspots.
The plans, unveiled yesterday, include creating a new park and ride facility, as well as a series of small tourism hubs.
Devised by local tour guides and backed by the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college and local MSP Kate Forbes, the ambitious scheme aims to manage the soaring numbers of tourists descending on the island and improve visitor experience.
The idea is that tourists could park up at a series of “centre parks”, which would include toilets, waste disposal and wifi.
They would then be transported by mini bus or electric shuttle vehicle to popular attractions or “Geosites” such as the Fairly Pools, Cuillins, Old Man of Storr and Neist Point.
The Geopark, which would require approval from UNESCO, would promote the use of Gaelic as well as highlight Skye’s acclaimed geological features.
It has been produced by Skye tour guides Seoris McGillivray and Donald Fisher, who is also a geologist.
Ms Forbes said: “In order to tackle the problems of congestion, lack of toilets and conservation of our fantastic natural environment, I support this new idea.
“The visitor management scheme is one of the best maps I’ve seen of Skye’s key sites and it would enable small visitor hubs to be built with some retail, a few toilets and more information about this particular site.
“These could be established in each of the key areas.
“This could also work alongside an expanded park and ride scheme, which could reduce the number of individual cars and big coaches on our narrow single track roads.
“All of this could be delivered alongside a recognition of Skye’s stunning natural environment through the designation of a Geopark.
“There are still challenges to be worked through, such as finance. This may not be the complete answer, it may not be the right answer, but I hope that it starts to bring together ideas.”
Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal Mor Ostaig UHI, said: “There is a very strong link between the language and the landscape and a bilingual Geopark would highlight and illumine that.”
Mr Fisher said: “The potential benefits to the Isle of Skye are immense.”
Mr McGillivray added: “The adoption of the proposed park-and-ride scheme will, for the first time, place the Isle of Skye at the forefront of best practice in visitor management.
“It is anticipated that Skye will become a model of best practice across the world.”