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Everything you need to know about Macduff Marine Aquarium revamp as new images revealed

The overhaul netted millions in UK Government funding and new details have now emerged...

The Macduff Marine Aquarium revamp has taken a step forward with final plans now lodged.
The Macduff Marine Aquarium revamp has taken a step forward with final plans now lodged. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

Fresh images have been unveiled showing off the proposed multi-million-pound revamp of Macduff Marine Aquarium.

More than 25 years on from its opening, major changes are being lined up to boost the popularity of the seaside attraction.

Macduff Marine Aquarium awaits a significant revamp. Image: Jason Hedges

It comes after Aberdeenshire Council secured a £20 million UK Government grant for projects along the north-east coast.

Now, detailed plans for the site reveal just how the money will be spent on the Macduff landmark.

They include:

  • An enhance coastal path, which is designed to form better links with the nearby Tarlair open air pool
  • Plans for an outdoor dining area on the new second floor, taking advantage of panoramic views of the Moray Firth
  • And the public’s verdict on what they want to see in the new cafe

What’s wrong with it as it is?

The venue opened in 1997 and, though leaders say it’s “locally appreciated”, they reckon it needs some TLC.

It’s said to be “limited by a lack of space” and, crucially, they reckon tourists will be more likely to pop in (and spend money) if it has a cafe.

One of the biggest changes will be the extra level. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

The layout of the building, at present, “restricts” any such ambitions.

Council documents outlining the new plans state: “To expand on the offer and meet the needs of Macduff and the region, new opportunities for income generation must be developed.

“The project will be a driver for economic growth; re-energise Macduff and offer new opportunities for small businesses.”

How the entrance would look under the revamp vision. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

And the papers say Macduff needs something to help transform its fortunes.

They explain: “The town faces a number of challenges, with employment, education, housing, income and crime statistics consistently comparing unfavourably with both Aberdeenshire and the UK as a whole.”

There are hopes the revamp will help stimulate the entire town. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

How will the aquarium change?

Its appearance will be quite different.

As well as the revamped entrance, there will be a second floor added to accommodate the planned cafe – and provide views out over the horizon.

The central kelp tank will remain in place. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The latest plans for the project explain: “The building currently has no connection with the outstanding coastal views to the north.

“Proposals should look to take advantage of the unique outlook.

“There exists the opportunity to create a truly distinctive building which is inspired by it’s maritime context.”

Visitors will be encouraged to try and spot the dolphins and seals found along the north-east coast. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

When the plans were first discussed back in September, the idea of a lobster “hatchery” was floated.

This would allow people to see the crustaceans as they grow from larvae until they can enter the wild.

The central tank and general layout of the current building will remain the same but exhibits will be upgraded with new features.

Here is how the ground floor will look:

The toilets will be moved closer to the entrance and the shop will become larger. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

And this shows how the extension would be built over the front:

Diners would be able to look down over the central tank. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

How will the outside change?

A new path will be created along the shoreline, its design influenced by the look of the nearby art deco Tarlair pool.

This will help to link the aquarium to other parts of the town, and signs will direct visitors to “The Scurr” rocks outside and the former baths on the outskirts of Macduff.

The present layout doesn’t allow much scope for coastal exploration, Image: Aberdeenshire Council

The entrance area will be “revitalised” too.

“Marine themed” play features will be added outside, and there will be more planting.

Will anything be removed as part of Macduff Marine Aquarium revamp?

One long-standing feature will be ditched under the revamp.

The bright red buoy in the car park, which has been there for many years, is described as a “worn art installation” with no place at the upgraded site.

This will be removed under the Macduff Marine Aquarium revamp plans. Image: Google Maps

A lighthouse sculpture, dating back to a charity drive in 2021, is also being shifted.

The council says this will “allow for a cohesive and revitalised landscape design”.

What will the cafe be like?

Given how central the catering is to the venue’s success, the council is eager to get this just right.

It will be erected around the feature kelp tank, with views looking down over the aquarium.

An outdoor deck will be built on the northern tip of the building, offering stunning views across the Moray Firth.

This could be a nice spot for lunch on a sunny day. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

And last year, the plans for “food with a view” were put to the public as part of a consultation on the project.

Scores of people responded to say they’d be “very likely” to use the cafe on a visit, with plenty saying they’d be inclined to pop in for a meal even without looking around the attractions.

These baby rays look as though they’re wondering what is going on. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

So what do they want in it?

Well, lunch was the main preference. But Macduff residents also said they’d like to see it offer afternoon tea and cakes.

Most importantly, they want it to be affordable and good value for money.

These design images show a bright and spacious cafe area. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

Many also have an appetite for it to offer local produce.

Other requests were for a quiet section, marine displays and activities for children.

How will people be encouraged to spend more time in the area?

The council thinks the aquatic attraction will act as the perfect focal point for bringing people into Macduff.

And planners want to make sure they see what else the town has to offer.

Macduff Cross, the town’s war memorial, and Tarlair open air pool are linked along coastal paths – and efforts will be made to promote them.

Work is taking place to turn Tarlair into an attraction too. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The plans state: “The aquarium offers the ideal opportunity to act as a ‘node’ point to focus tourist activity and to enable visitors to explore all that Macduff has to offer.”

Do you think the Macduff Marine Aquarium revamp will make you more likely to visit? Let us know in our comments section below

What will be done to attract more to revamped aquarium?

New campaigns will be launched alongside the Visit Scotland and Visit Aberdeenshire tourism agencies.

Documents say tourist trade is “capable of making a notable impact within the aquarium itself, but also in associated retail and hospitality businesses in the

This diagram shows the various changes planned. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

Colleges and universities will be approached to arrange trips as well, with a business boost anticipated when they visit the cafe.

And the dining area will also be marketed to businesses for training sessions or celebrations.

You can see the plans here.

And read all about the ambitious 12-year project to bring Tarlair back to life here.