“Magical” funding for rural tourism projects – including parking for the the Harry Potter railway – in the north will help to create the infrastructure required for an ever increasing number of tourists in Scotland.
£3 million in grants from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund will be shared among 18 projects across Scotland – with 13 of those going to community groups and organisations in the Highlands and islands.
Among the projects are a car park for the Glenfinnan railway viewpoint, toilets and motorhome facilities at the Old Man of Storr, Skye, Mallaig- Traigh motorhome facility, paths to link car parks and amenities at the Cairn Gorms National Park, and a parking hub at Hoswick in Shetland.
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop announced the funding yesterday at Glenfinnan. She was surrounded by tourists who had come to see the Jacobite Steam Train, better known to the thousands who visit the site every day as the Hogwarts Express or the Harry Potter train.
Mrs Hyslop said: “The Highlands and islands have done particularly well out of this first round of funding, but as you will see from the many projects we’ve funded there is a growing demand for infrastructure for tourists across Scotland.
“We want to work alongside those community groups who have identified a solution for an issue and then we can try and make it work for them. They are often the people who know the solutions to the problems they are facing.
“We want local authorities to continue to find solutions for infrastructure, but this rural funding will help ease some of problems the in the meantime.”
Glenfinnan resident and a member of the community group who applied for funding, Ingrid Henderson, said: “We have a high number of visitors to the Glenfinnan railway view point that is continuing to grow.
“On a random Tuesday afternoon in July we counted 700 visitors – with no proper car park that was making things along the roadside very dangerous.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
“Instead of grumbling and moaning about the visitors we pulled up our sleeves and found a solution.
“We are delighted the Scottish Government have given us this money. We are now waiting to hear about other funding.
“All being well it means we will have the 120 space car park up and running for the season getting underway next year.”
Councillor Allan Henderson, chairman of Highland Council’s infrastructure committee, was at the viewpoint and called the funding “magic”. He said: “With the overall number of visitors to Highland increasing, this has taken the parking issue to unsustainable levels which are causing major congestion and safety issues on the A830.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive at Visit Scotland, who administer the fund on behalf of the government, said he recognised the need for funding in rural areas. He continued: “Due to the continued success of tourism, it is crucial that we address those pinch points already identified and futureproof those areas where demand is growing.
“This funding will help those communities improve their facilities and enhance their offering to welcome more visitors in the future.
However, one resident who had come to watch all the commotion caused by a government minister visit said: “As soon as the car park for 120 is built it will be full. We need a car park at least treble the size.”
North projects include: Fionnphort and Criagnure car park improvements on Mull, Bruichladdich – Port Charlotte pathway, Tiree turf and surf, Cairngorms National Park at Muir of Dinnet, Active Glenmore, Western Isles Tourism Outer Hebrides 2020, Storr parking, Lochinver project, Glenfinnan, Lochcarron, Mallaig-Traigh motorhome facility, Blabheinn toilets and parking, and a parking hub at Hoswick.
Everyone’s happy in Hoswick, too
Villagers in Hoswick, Shetland were “delighted” to hear they had been awarded cash in the first round of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
The group will benefit from £131,660 to cater for a huge leap in the number of visitors to the sea front village, better known in yesteryears for wool and whale blubber.
Rosemary Inkster, of Hoswick Visitor Centre said the money would supply more than just a car park – it would be a hub for visitors coming to the village.
Speaking from her home, she said: “We are delighted. I can’t quite believe we have come this far. In the very early days we had to borrow money from the youth club to fund the café – and now we are going to have some infrastructure of our own.
“It is great news. We are thriving in Hoswick. We have the woollen mill, Nielanell and out visitor centre. For a small village we’ve a big story to tell.
“We have set up a craft initiative and we sell from 53 different makers in the visitor centre, it keeps everyone in a job.
“Last year we had 21-22,000 visitors, a third of the people who come are from the cruise ships, but we have also got visitors who come by car or bike and then we have a good number of Shetland Islanders who come.”
Shetland’s Visit Scotland regional director, Steve Mathieson, said: “This is great news for Hoswick. It really will make all the difference to this community to have somewhere to accommodate vehicles and bikes properly.
“There is lots going on in the village and this project will allow the small group who organise visitors to share it with even more people.
“Congratulations to them, well deserved.”