A group set up to promote the geology of Lochaber today opened a coffee shop close to one of the area’s most famous geological features.
The opening of Darwin’s Rest Coffee Shop – named after famous British naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin – at Roybridge is the first step towards creating Lochaber Geopark’s first visitor centre, which is due to open at the end of next month.
And it is hoped that the new tourist attraction on the A86 Spean Bridge to Kingussie road – at the foot of the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy – will give the local economy a welcome boost by attracting more visitors to the area.
Following a visit to the area in 1838, Darwin is reported to have said: “I can assure you that Glen Roy has astonished me.”
He concluded that the three horizontal lines on the hillside – known as roads – were the shorelines of an ancient sea, but his interpretation proved to be incorrect.
And, in 1840, they were identified by the Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz as the natural shorelines of a lake that was dammed by a glacier.
An exhibition dedicated to the Parallel Roads will be displayed in the visitor centre and there will be guided trips to the geosite during the peak tourist season.
There will also be a gift and craft shop and information will be available on the world-class geology of the entire park, together with details of local wildlife, scenery, activities, accommodation providers and events.
The geopark’s project manager Anita Delaney said: “It is very exciting for us as this project will enable the geopark to become self-funding.
“We are hoping it will have the support of locals, as well as attracting more tourists into the area during the summer.”
She added that the centre would be open seven days a week during the peak season when it will employ three to four people.
Lochaber Geopark, which was formed in 2006, was a member of the European Geopark Network (EGN) and Global Geopark Network until 2011.
It lost this status due to a lack of core funding. However, in November of last year it applied to rejoin the EGN and its application is due to be considered by the European forum next month. If this is successful, it would also regain Unesco status.