Popular beauty spots on Skye and Orkney will benefit from almost £500,000 of Scottish Government funding to prepare for the coming tourist season.
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop will confirm today that three schemes on the islands will be the first to secure cash from the new £6million Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
She will announce that £100,000 will go towards road and parking improvements at Neist Point lighthouse on Skye, and Highland Council will also receive £300,000 on behalf of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland to develop visitor facilities, including toilets, at the Fairy Pools on Skye.
A further £80,000 will be committed towards a car park at the Standing Stones of Stenness, on Orkney.
The Scottish Government announced the creation of the fund last year amid a controversy over the impact of soaring visitor numbers at attractions in the Highlands and islands, particularly Skye and Orkney.
The investment pledge for Skye emerged just days after it was announced the Skye Local Area Partnership had agreed to commit £200,000 towards the first phase of improvement works at the Fairy Pools, while £100,000 from the Scottish Government would go towards parking and road improvement works at the Quiraing on Skye.
Local MSP Kate Forbes said: “Hot on the heels of the announcement earlier this week about funding for the Fairy Pools and the Quiraing, I am delighted that there will also be additional funding for Neist Point and to develop the Fairy Pools even further.
“To secure funding for the Fairy Pools, Neist Point and the Quiraing is superb. These three areas were all subjected to a rapid growth in visitor numbers and it’s important the infrastructure is ready for the continuing demand this year.”
Ms Hyslop added: “The tourism boom is great news for rural Scotland, bringing jobs and investment to communities. Yet we are also seeing pressures on services, facilities and transport, which is why we are taking action.
“These pilots in Orkney and Skye will quickly deliver benefits and help us finalise the way the scheme operates, before it opens up soon to more applications from around the country.
“I’m determined that we strike the right balance between sustainably growing tourism with carefully managing our iconic and world-leading destinations – so visitors can continue to enjoy them for generations to come.”
James Stockan, leader of Orkney Islands Council, said: “The Standing Stones of Stenness have seen increasing pressure over recent years.
“Any contribution towards upgrading visitor facilities to this popular attraction within our Hearth of Neolithic World Heritage Site is very welcome.”