A community share scheme to help fund a tourism and transport centre at Loch Ness has smashed its target in just four weeks.
The project was launched last month with hopes of raising between £50,000 and £110,000 and has now reached the upper target.
It is proposed the Loch Ness Hub will be a community transport, tourism information and travel facility and the base for baggage transfers.
It will also promote and provide information and ticket sales for businesses and attractions within the Glen Urquhart and wider Loch Ness area, creating local employment and channelling surplus profits back into community projects.
The project had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but is now planned to be ready by spring 2021. It is proposed to purchase and incorporate an existing baggage handling and transfer service.
The project was set up by the Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association (Gurca) following a successful bid for a community buy-out of the former Tourism Information Centre in Drumnadrochit.
So far £285,000 has been raised, including the income from the share offer.
Hub secretary Carolyn Wilson, a founder member and trustee of Gurca, said: “We smashed it. We reached our top target so could not have hoped for anything better. We are thrilled to bits.
“The next steps now are just to get on with the work in completing the purchase of the building, starting to advertise for a manager and getting the place ready to start operations from next season.”
She said more than three quarters of the shares have been bought by local people: “It’s a fabulous effort and demonstrates that the community is behind this and is backing the venture.”
Gurca chairwoman Susan Clark said: “Its been fabulous that we have been able to raise the maximum amount from the share offer. It shows how bought in to the project the community is because they’ve actually put their money where they mouth is and told us to go and do it.
“We had factored borrowing money into our business plan but we don’t have to borrow now.”
Gurca launched the project after VisitScotland vacated the building in 2018 and a community asset transfer was widely supported.
A transport feasibility study by Gurca partner Soirbheas highlighted some key challenges locally, including commuting to and from Drumnadrochit and taking children to school without using fossil fuel cars.
Solutions included establishing a transport hub, improving public transport, expanding the charging network for electric vehicles, a care share scheme and introducing e-bike hire and a community transport scheme in the area.
Drumnadrochit is a growing community with around 80 new homes currently being built in the village and more planned. It is also a significant tourist destination on the shore of Loch Ness and close to the popular visitor attraction at Urquhart Castle.