Well preserved footprints tell us dinosaurs walked there 165 million years ago – but now it’s the turn of fishing boats and pleasure craft to enjoy the seaboard of a remote Skye village.
A few ornithopod strides along Staffin beach lie a century-old slipway and inadequate breakwater, providing little shelter for local creel boats, let alone pleasure craft.
But within two years, it’s hoped a proper harbour will be created to shelter commercial boats and yachts, giving a significant economic boost to the north-east village and its 568 residents.
Staffin Community Trust is behind the proposals which have now passed the early planning stages with Highland Council.
With just shy of £1m from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, a start can be made on a project reckoned to come in with an ultimate price tag of more than £2m.
The famous dinosaur prints lie some 400 yards to the west, an area covered by a nature conservation order, so the trust is taking account of that, says project manager Malcolm Hendry.
He said: “There’s no decent shelter in the harbour at the moment, so this project is to provide a decent community harbour that can be used by commercial and leisure craft 12 months of the year.
“The proposal is for a new breakwater of rock armour and infill to provide the shelter, and inside the breakwater, a new bigger slipway and pontoons for local boats to work off and provide a few berths for visitors.”
The plan is for pontoons to accommodate 15 larger vessels and 12 smaller ones.
Mr Hendry said: “The three creel boats currently fishing from Staffin have to moor just behind Staffin island and land with dinghies.
“It’s quite exposed and not a very safe way of working, so they will now be able to have their boats on the pontoons and it will make the whole business far more sustainable.”
The development will also position Staffin to take advantage of the pre-pandemic sailing boom.
“Thirty years ago very few yachts came north of Ardnamurchan but the combination of better boats, GPS and better facilities on the north-west coast means that a lot of yachts are coming round to these waters.”
Staffin will also be able to take advantage of a recent increase in the demand for boat trips around Skye.
“From Raasay to the north end of Skye is absolutely stunning and serviced at the moment to an extent by some of the boats coming into Portree, but the distance they’re having to travel means they’re not really getting the full benefit of it.
“We’ve already had interest from people wanting to set up boat trips out of Staffin once the harbour is in place.
“Organic Sea Harvest salmon farm are also going to be using it as a shore base, able to get their big landing craft in for transferring equipment, so it will be a big boost for them as well.”
The initial £1m will go towards creating the 200yd breakwater, as funds are raised to complete the rest of the harbour.
Full planning permission and marine licenses are expected by the end of July, with contracts issued in the first half of next year.
Meanwhile the go-ahead community is looking forward to the completion of its development at Stenscholl, a £1.6 million project which includes six three-bedroom homes, a health centre and two business premises.
Already there have been more than 10 expressions of interest in the new homes and six notes of interest in the business units.
Staffin Community Trust developed the project after concerns about the lack of available accommodation, the falling roll at local school Bun Sgoil Stafainn and the declining population.