A historic place of worship in Moray has had plans approved to create a new car park to help cope with a huge increase in visitor numbers.
Pluscarden Abbey has been overwhelmed by the number of tourists at times during the busy summer months with an estimated 15,000 visitors now passing through the gates every year.
Campaigners already had a vision to restore more of the 13th century monastery, which lay in ruins for about 400 years as part of its £1.8m South Range Appeal.
A larger car park with space for 30 vehicles and two coaches was included as part of the plans to convert the existing female retreat into a heritage centre to preserve the tranquil atmosphere of the grounds.
However, the plans were brought forward after multiple tour groups “swamped” the abbey at times during the summer.
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Grenville Johnston, chairman of the appeal committee, said: “We suspect there will be more tourists in the next few years, and the abbey is quite content with that.
“Pluscarden is one of the many jewels in Moray’s crown and we want to make the visitor experience better.
“We’re surprised but also delighted at the number of buses that visit the abbey these days. However, when two turn up at once they just swamp the place.”
The restoration of the abbey’s south range will include the relocation of the female retreat and a new library for its community of Benedictine monks.
A bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is expected to fund most of the costs however pilgrimages have also been run to help bridge the gap alongside a series of fundraising dinners.
Moray Council has already backed a bid from the abbey to the Scottish Government’s rural tourism infrastructure fund to help pay for the new car park, which will be built in a field near the abbey gates.
If successful, it would cover £80,000 with the monastery paying the remaining £34,500. The result of the bid is expected next month. Moray Council planning officer Richard Smith approved the planning application after concluding it would fit with the ancient grounds.