The North Coast 500 will prove vital in helping the Highlands bounce back from the pandemic, and people in Brora are now making moves to cash in on an expected surge in interest.
A community survey revealed that many feel the Sutherland village is “passed through” rather than seen as a destination on the route.
Now community representatives have come together to work on several projects designed to enhance village life for residents and to attract more visitors in years to come.
The “Vision for Brora” was launched during an online event last night, with an update given on the projects people are most keen to see progressed after lockdown.
Certain schemes have been prioritised following a community survey and wider consultation.
The main priority is making improvements to the village centre, with many local people commenting on the poor quality of the streetscape.
An artist impression has been designed to show how this could be improved through business frontages, street furniture and the introduction of some colour.
Other priorities include new gateways at the entrances of the villages, to include sculptures which will be aimed at attracting motorists to stop.
The redevelopment of Fascally Park would include the addition of campervan overnight facilities, waste disposal, electric car charging points, an electronic visitor attractions guide, wifi, toilets and showers. The park would also have a new events area.
Longer term projects seek to develop the potential of the harbour area, the beaches and Station Square.
The launch event last night was hosted by local councillor Deirdre Mackay.
Guest speakers were David Whiteford, chairman of North Highland Initiative, Tom Campbell, executive chairman, of North Coast 500 Ltd, David Watson, chairman of the Sutherland Sustainable Tourism Group and Tony Gill, chairman of Brora’s development trust.
People were able to ask questions of the panel via a chat facility.
Mrs Mackay said: “I have been delighted to work with and be supported by so many enthusiastic local community groups in our ambitious plans to make Brora a great place to live and work in, as well as to visit.”
She acknowledged the financial and volunteer resources provided by The Duke of Rothesay’s North Highland Initiative (NHI), SSE’s Gordonbush Wind Farm Community Benefit Trust and the development trust in progressing the plans even in the midst of the pandemic.
Mr Whiteford added: “I am sure that the combined efforts and resources of the community, NHI and other stakeholders will turn the vision into reality.
“This is a great example of community engagement and supporting local leadership, and NHI is pleased to be working with the Brora community.”
The launch of the 2020 Vision for Brora was delayed by a year due to coronavirus.
Mrs Mackay told the community they had done themselves proud during lockdown.
She said: “Your efforts have been exemplary and the organisation, energy and compassion shown by the community, the frontline workers, businesses and the many volunteers who helped those who required support, has been outstanding and shows what type of community we live in – so my heartfelt thanks to you all.”
Diageo has invested more than £17.5 million in the Clynelish Distillery in Brora, with a visitor centre due to open at the end of April as a further enticement to tourists.