Development plan approval confirms £2.8m for north-west tourism infrastructure projects


Six projects aiming to improve car parking and toilet facilities between Lochbroom and Durness have secured a £2.8 million funding boost following the approval of a program to deliver rural tourism infrastructure upgrades.

On Thursday August 25, economy and infrastructure committee members approved the Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Plan (STIDP) and its purpose to direct future national and local area-based Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) spend.

One of the projects listed in the plan aims to complete parking and toilet upgrades at Smoo Cave, a combined coastal and freshwater cave in Durness, Sutherland.

Economy and infrastructure committee chair, councilor Ken Gowans said: “VisitScotland through Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF), awarded the Highland Council funding to produce a Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Plan (STIDP) to identify key tourism infrastructure priorities for future RTIF support over the next 2 to 5 years.

This week, members endorsed the STIDP plan and officers can now begin to focus on a program for delivering a further 22 ambitious projects.

A total of £2,873,871 has been allocated to the north-west Highlands as part of the plan, including:

  • Parking improvements across north-west Sutherland £368,359
  • Smoo Cave parking and toilet upgrade £337,000
  • Blairmore car park and toilets, Sandwood Estate £198,000
  • Northwest Sutherland public toilet upgrades £502,000
  • Stac Pollaidh visitor facilities £642,000
  • Achmelvich visitor facilities £826,512
Ken Gowans June 2022. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Ken Gowans June 2022. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Mr Gowans added: “Over the past five years the RTIF has contributed to 29 RTIF projects and I am delighted to see the positive impact made to our rural communities and the improvements to the visitor experience.

“To date RTIF projects have received over £5.2m awarded with a combined value of almost £9.4m. This constitutes 35 per cent of the total national budget awarded and indicates the scale and commitment to making infrastructure improvements across Highland. We recognize that we still have a way to go and look forward to seeing a further 22 future developments in the years to come.”

The purpose of the STIDP is to identify key priorities for tourism infrastructure in Highland over the medium term.

The plan looks at publicly accessible infrastructure, either provided by the public sector or by third parties/commercial stakeholders, unlike the previous four rounds, where applications were accepted on an individual basis, future rounds of RTIF will focus on delivering the priorities within the Highland Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Plan.

The plan identifies two levels of tourism infrastructure related priorities:

Tier One – Identifies eight hotspot areas, where multiple sites experience multiple pressures across different types of infrastructure.

Tier Two – Identifies tourism infrastructure at individual sites out with the main hotspot areas that face similar pressures or have ambitions to attract more visitors to elevate pressures from more popular areas.

The plan identifies twenty-two projects that the Highland Council and its partners plan to take forward over the next 2 to 5 years as priorities.

The STIDP also includes the following:

Glencoe and Glen Etive £1,450,000

  • Glencoe Greenway – A82 Glencoe active travel project £500,000
  • Glencoe Village & Ballachulish public toilet upgrades £220,000
  • Glencoe Village car park £705,000
  • Glen Etive road end parking £25,000

Glen Nevis £442,221

  • Glen Nevis roadside parking (Achintee) £61,600
  • Glen Nevis road end car park (Steall) &
  • Lower Falls parking and bridge replacement £145,621
  • Event car parking Nevis Forest £177,000
  • Expansion of the North Face car park £58,000

Road to the Isles (Glenfinnan Mallaig) £326,610

  • B8008 parking and traffic management £326.610

Isle of Skye £1,320,000

  • Visitor car park and public transport improvements £610,000
  • Dunvegan public toilet upgrade £110,000
  • Bayfield car park expansion and toilets £600,000

Applecross £132,000

  • Motorhome stopover site £132,000

Fortrose – Rosemarkie – Chanonry Point £298,000

  • Chanonry Point visitor parking £298,000

Whaligoe Steps (Tier 2) £90,000

  • Whaligoe Steps car parking £90,000

The potential total costs of proposed projects £6,932,701. Costs are estimates and may be subject to change.

The Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Plan can be viewed here.


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