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£5m for Highlands & Islands tourism projects

Nine projects in the Highlands and Islands will share a £5 million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) award to promote the outstanding scenery, wildlife and culture of the Highlands and Islands, Scottish Tourism & Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced today.

Fiona Hyslop MSP with RSPB and SNH staff and volunteers at Loch Garten (Photo: Ewen Weatherspoon/SNH)

The funding has been awarded through the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Ms Hyslop announced the grants after visiting Wildlife Watch Abernethy.

The project has received just over £252,000 from the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, which will create three new, local jobs as well as extend the opening season and improve the visitor experience at Loch Garten, so more people can enjoy the nature reserve and learn about conservation in the Cairngorms.

The area has also recently featured in the BBC Autumnwatch programme and has been promoted by VisitScotland as a key spot for wildlife watching.

RSPB will install new information panels at the centre and on the surrounding woodland trails, expand and extend vehicle parking, and develop a programme of talks, walks and activities.

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund invests in projects in the Highlands and Islands which improve the experience of visitors exploring the region’s nature and culture.

Attractions along the North Coast 500 route will benefit including a new visitor centre and improved car parking facility at Corrieshalloch Gorge. Strathnaver Museum in North West Sutherland will also be renovated and refurbished into a leading heritage hub in the region.  

Ms Hyslop said: “Tourism is a major part of the Highland and Islands’ economies and it’s essential that its social and economic benefits are shared as widely as possible. That’s why I’m pleased to announce the successful applicants for grants from the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund to improve their experience for visitors.

“This fund will create jobs and help projects in remote areas, like Wildlife Watch Abernethy, to enhance their offer to the millions of people who visit the region every year. Thanks to support from the European Regional Development Fund, the wonderful landscapes, nature and culture of the Highlands and Islands will welcome new visitors in a way that is sustainable and creates long-term benefits for local communities.”

Francesca Osowska, SNH Chief Executive, added: “A key priority for SNH is to help ensure tourism and other sectors benefit from, and invest in, Scotland’s high quality environment.

“Nature and culture are closely linked in the Highlands & Islands, and in many places they are central to the local economy, maintaining rural populations, jobs and skills. These nine innovative projects can bring significant benefits to more rural communities for years to come, giving visitors even more to enjoy in these iconic areas of Scotland.”

Uwe Stoneman, Senior Site Manager for RSPB Abernethy nature reserve, said: “Loch Garten has been at the heart of tourism and nature in the highlands for the last 60 years. We are very grateful for this funding which will enable us to continue to showcase the importance of this special forest along with the history of its ospreys for decades to come, bringing benefits to the local community and contributing to tourism in the Cairngorms National Park and beyond.”

Other projects to receive funding include:

West Highland College UHI – The Coast that Shaped the World (£350,371) – This project will develop a website, app and programme of digital exhibitions along the west coast of Scotland. Stories of coastal communities will convey how maritime cultural, and natural, heritage helped to shape the world. Local stories will be mapped and gathered, creating a website and app to inspire potential visitors.

Trees for Life, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre (£714,000) – The project will create a hub where people can experience an ancient pinewood with unique juniper forest, discover Gaelic history and learn about rewilding. It will feature interpretation about Dundreggan’s natural heritage, engagement with Gaelic culture, forest play facilities, accessible trails, walks and trails, learning, outdoor events, indoor study and research and improvements to the wider natural heritage.

National Trust Scotland, Corrieshalloch Gorge Gateway to Nature (£923,000) – A new visitor centre will form a gateway to Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach. The project will also improve and expand car parking and develop new path networks with wayfinding and signage.

Lews Castle College UHI, UVAP- Uibhist Virtual Archaeology Project (£271,000) – This project will create a series of augmented reality experiences and mixed-media exhibitions for seven archaeological sites along the Hebridean Way walking route. 

NW Mull Community Woodland Company, Storas Ulbha (£813,000) – Ulva Cultural Heritage Project – Ulva House will be conserved and refurbished as a visitor centre. A research project with the University of the Highlands and Islands will investigate the story of the people of Ulva and the wider impact they have had on the world. The project will also develop a website, restore Ulva House Garden with volunteers, and create a self-catering flat.

Kilmartin Museum Company Ltd, Kilmartin Museum extension and development (£700,000) – This project will renovate Kilmartin Museum into a fit-for-purpose visitor attraction and learning centre by remodelling the existing buildings and adding an extension. Improved visitor facilities will include a re-modelled shop, an overflow car park, and outdoor and digital interpretation. 

Strathnaver Museum (£650,000) – This project will refurbish and renovate Strathnaver Museum as a heritage hub for North West Sutherland.  It will improve the physical condition of the historic church which houses the current museum; improve the visitor experience and secure the condition and integrity of the collection; extend outreach work across the area; increase the services offered on site; increase the number of staff; and secure the future of the museum by improving the sustainability of the organisation by improving the retail and research spaces.

 Access to Orkney Heritage (£273,420) – This Orkney Islands Council project will create greater access to heritage sites and assets across the smaller isles of the Orkney archipelago. The project will also improve interpretation information about the sites and create dedicated trails and routes that have been developed to encapsulate the main heritage locations of each isle.

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