Rural tourist destinations across the north are to receive a share of £2.6million to help improve the visitor experience.
Dog Falls at Glen Affric and Gairloch beach are among 11 destinations from across Scotland set to benefit from thousands of pounds in funding from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).
Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the fund was created to improve the quality of the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that have faced pressure on their infrastructure due to an increase in visitor numbers.
It aims to reduce the impact of visitor numbers on local communities and facilities and create a more collaborative and sustainable approach to infrastructure provision and long-term maintenance of local facilities for the benefit of communities.
More than £375,000 is now being invested in the Highlands’ tourist economy to help improve facilities for those travelling the North Coast 500.
Business and tourism minister Ivan McKee said the funds will help communities provide adequate infrastructure to withstand an influx of visitors.
‘This investment is crucial’
He said: “Scotland’s breathtaking natural scenery and rich historical sites attract many visitors and help the local economy. However, this can also put pressure on communities, services, transport and facilities – particularly in rural areas.
“The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is dedicated to helping deal with increasing demand, driving sustainable tourism, and increasing visitor experience in rural Scotland.
“This funding will help our tourism industry as it recovers by supporting the ongoing creation of much needed infrastructure such as new car parks, charging points for vehicles and e-bike facilities at some of our most iconic rural and natural attractions. This investment is crucial so that visitors from home and abroad can continue to enjoy our fantastic landscape, culture and hospitality for years to come in a sustainable way.”
Representatives from Gairloch have welcomed a grant worth £147,354 to help them cope with the influx of visitors taking to the NC500.
The funds will be used to construct toilets and motorhome facilities in the main beach car park, to help meet the growing demand for “modern, environmentally friendly facilities” in the community.
Gairloch Area Development Ltd secretary, Fran Cree, said: “The Gairloch Community is delighted to receive RTIF funding to be able to progress on the much needed all year round facilities at Gairloch beach where the high demand for modern, environmentally friendly facilities has been long needed.
“Not only will the new facilities service visitors and local residents using Gairloch beach and the touring camper vans in the area but will also help the community retain the highly valued European Clean Beach designation currently held.”
Meanwhile, a further £228,200 is being invested in Glen Affric to fund the expansion of visitor facilities at Dog Falls.
The project will increase the parking capacity at the popular attraction for larger vehicles, replace the aging toilet, restore and upgrade the bridge and improve cycle infrastructure including four e-bike charge points.
Scotland’s drive for sustainable tourism
VisitScotland received a total of 25 applications from 11 local authorities during the fourth round of funding.
Assessors have approved 11 projects for the Highlands, Stirling, Argyll & Bute, Perth & Kinross, Moray Speyside, and West Lothian council areas.
The charity has so far distributed £14.5m of grant funding to 56 projects across 13 local authorities – spanning from the borders to the Shetland Isles – over the last four rounds of RTIF.
These have included projects at Glenfinnan and Doune Castle to alleviate parking pressures, due to increased interest from Harry Potter and Outlander fans.
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, said: “The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is an important part of creating a sustainable tourism model in Scotland. Not only does it improve the visitor experience but enhances access and facilities for the wider community.
“We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and these improvement projects will ensure our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.
“VisitScotland is committed to working with the industry and communities to create a long-lasting sustainable tourism destination which will protect the environment and benefit visitors and residents alike.”