Three heritage sites in the north have won a share of £1.9million Lottery funding – providing a boost to tourism during the Covid pandemic.
The investment will help support the development of Dundreggan Rewilding Centre near Loch Ness, the Strathnaver Museum at Bettyhill and Braemar Castle.
Sitting directly on the NC500, Strathnaver Museum plays an important role in the fragile rural economy of the Bettyhill area, and has been awarded £650,000.
This is on top of £113,157 awarded earlier this week from Museum Galleries Scotland.
The museum tells the story of the Highland Clearances and the history of the Clan Mackay, but the 1750’s former church is no longer fit for purpose.
The funding will help transform the building into a modern museum, and add a new annex and layout to improve the visitor experience, and up-to-date interpretation to tell the stories of the fascinating artefacts it holds.
A new archive room will also be created to develop a genealogy service.
There will also be a range of new activities to help address isolation and mental health including courses in traditional craft skills, the opportunity to help build a traditional fishing boat, and researching a digital Highland Clearances trail.
Project manager Fiona Mackenzie said: “This support will enable us to save our important historic building and the collection it contains for future generations.
“After a very challenging year this funding has made a huge difference to our organisation as we look to the future with an exciting programme of activities for our communities over the next three years and beyond.”
The Trees for Life project to establish the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan, a 10,000-acre estate in Glnemoriston, has won £702,300.
The organisation is working to protect and expand globally important fragments of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest.
It is expected to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually.
Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said: “We are delighted to be weeks away from breaking ground at Dundreggan and see our vision for the Rewilding Centre come to life over the next year.
“It comes at a time when everyone is looking toward the future, to when we can get back to gathering together with our communities, socialising and exploring.”
Braemar Castle has won £555,900 of funding.
Works will be undertaken to renew the castle’s harling and access to the castle will also be improved with a new visitor reception and all-weather pathways.
The castle’s grounds will be upgraded and used to host a range of community activities focussing on health and wellbeing.
Simon, Blackett, chairman of Braemar Community Limited, said: “The castle is embedded in the community and is an important recreational and learning asset.
“This award will allow us carry out urgent repairs and build on what’s been achieved so far.”
Caroline Clark, director Scotland of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The road to recovery is going to be extremely challenging, and we are doing all we can to help people, communities and places through this crisis.”