Shetland Amenity Trust’s multimillion pound conversion of Sumburgh Head’s lighthouse received the royal seal of approval yesterday afternoon when Princess Anne carried out the official opening of the new visitor centre.
Visiting Shetland on a cold and wet spring day, the Princess Royal was welcomed by local Lord Lieutenant Bobby Hunter.
The princess was then shown around the renovated lighthouse buildings by trust vice-chairman George Sutherland, while around 250 invited guests were standing in the rain in cordoned off areas for an hour waiting for the official opening to begin.
She praised the amenity trust for the outstanding work they had done in preserving the historic buildings and making them available for future use.
The patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board added: “Can I congratulate the Shetland Amenity Trust particularly for taking on this site and coming up with such an innovative project.
“Speaking with my NLB hat on, it a pleasure to see the lighthouse and it environments kept as they were designed.”
Trust chairman Brian Gregson said the opening of the £5.4million facility, which has been completed on time and within budget, was a historic day for Shetland.
He added: “We were very lucky to have royalty at the opening of the new museum eight years ago and it only seemed absolutely appropriate to invite royalty again for this next major venue the amenity trust is involved in.”
The £5.4million two-year renovation project has seen a complete transformation of the lighthouse buildings, with a focus on a new education centre to increase knowledge and raise awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of Sumburgh Head.
School and visitor groups will use the facility, which has floor-to-ceiling glass windows that will allow people to appreciate the fragility of the local inshore marine environment and the wealth of biodiversity that depends on it.
RSPB Scotland office space will also be improved and facilities extended to include residential volunteer opportunities for a place which is home to one of the most accessible bird colonies in the UK.
The Sumburgh Head project is led by Shetland Amenity Trust, in partnership with the RSPB and in co-operation with the Northern Lighthouse Board.