Rural tourism infrastructure projects to receive share of £3m funding

Staffa Island and Fingals Cave

A TOTAL of £3m has been awarded to 10 tourism projects across Scotland, to improve visitor facilities and access and to promote low-carbon transport options.

The projects have all been recommended for approval – subject to conditions – to receive cash from round five of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).

Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the RTIF was created to improve the quality of the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that have faced pressure on their infrastructure due to this increase in visitor numbers. 

It aims to reduce the impact of visitor numbers on local communities and facilities and create a more collaborative and sustainable approach to infrastructure provision and long-term maintenance of local facilities for the benefit of communities.

Round five of RTIF was extremely competitive, with 15 applications considered by the assessment panel, made up of representatives from the Scottish Government, COSLA, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, NatureScot and Architecture and Design Scotland, as well as VisitScotland.

Successful applications this round included the first RTIF approval for Renfrewshire Council for Lochwinnoch Boardwalk, in partnership with the RSPB.

Round five was open to applications from local authorities and National Park authorities, in partnership with their communities, and focuses on delivering projects that increase access to facilities and encouraging sustainable travel. 

Round five applications recommended for approval include:

  • £477,270 to upgrade the existing visitor infrastructure on the Isle of Staffa, in Argyll & Bute, to improve the visitor experience by reducing overcrowding and increasing visitor safety. This will comprise development of an upgraded and significantly larger boat landing jetty which will provide additional space for seating, a waiting area and improve visitor flow.
  • £350,000 towards the Glencoe Greenway, a new low-level active travel route which will follow the A82 from Glencoe village into Glencoe National Nature Reserve and will directly connect with the popular National Cycle Network route 78 – the Caledonia Way. The project comprises two elements: A new path and an upgraded pathway. Missing link of 2km new path from Glencoe Visitor Centre to Signal Rock and 2km upgraded existing path from A82 Glencoe Village to Glencoe Visitor Centre.
  • £207,886 to develop and build accessible path links to Bonaly Country Park, Edinburgh, as part of the STID Pentland Hills Sustainable Access project, which seeks to reduced car parking requirements in the long term by providing accessible non-vehicle links to the Park.
  • £85,553 to develop six overnight motorhome bays with electric hook-ups and grey water disposal point as part of the Urgha Aire project, just outside Tarbert in the Outer Hebrides, to help deal with the increase in campervans and motorhomes arriving on the island.

The Urgha Aire project in particular will specifically target the provision of overnight campervan stops and grey water disposal to alleviate pressures on Tarbert and the surrounding area – the provision of more formal camping locations being a key recommendation of the Harris Visitor Management Strategy.

The Glencoe Greenway is part of a strategic plan to address visitor management issues in Glencoe. It ties in with other ongoing RTIF projects in the area and once completed, will be regarded as a nationally-significant asset within the active travel network, linking up with the Caledonia Way cycle route and enabling people to access popular destinations like the Three Sisters and Hidden Valley on foot and by bike instead of car or motorhome.

As it focuses on safe low-carbon methods of travel for all ability levels, it is addressing visitor capacity issues in a manner that fits with Net Zero aspirations and inclusivity and will give people arriving by public transport safe pedestrian access into the Glen.

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “Scotland’s breathtaking natural scenery and rich historical sites attract many visitors and help the local economy. However, this can also put pressure on communities, services, transport and facilities – particularly in rural areas.

“The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) is dedicated to helping deal with increasing demand, driving sustainable tourism and increasing visitor experience in rural Scotland. The fifth round of funding will provide the infrastructure required for locals and visitors to enjoy Scotland’s attractions in a sustainable way and will help provide greater access to iconic sites, enhance passenger flow, decrease crowding and also help to reduce car parking requirements.”

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: “I am very pleased to be able to announce these 10 projects which have been recommended for approval for RTIF funding.

“Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage are central to our attractiveness as a destination. It is vital we protect them for the future. RTIF is an important part of Scotland becoming a sustainable tourism destination in line with the national tourism and economic strategy.

“Increasingly, visitors are becoming more mindful of their impacts on the world around them, both socially and environmentally. Being a responsible visitor and respecting and protecting our environment and communities makes for a better experience for everyone.RTIF projects will help ensure our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.”

Cllr Donald Crichton, Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee, said: “We are delighted that the Urgha Aire project has been successful in this round of RTIF funding as it will enable the provision of a much-needed overnight electric hook-up area for motorhomes and campervans and therefore alleviating some parking and traffic issues in Tarbert.”

Cllr Ken Gowans, Chair of The Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, said: “I am delighted to see that four projects in Highland have been successful in the recent round of RTIF. There is no doubt that previous funding awards have made a significant difference to our communities, environment, and the visitor experience. I look forward to seeing the development of these new infrastructure projects as they support the ongoing work to improve sustainable and responsible tourism within our region.

“I particularly welcome the additional funding for Glencoe, which encourages alternative travel solutions in the Glen and follows the work already approved in round three of RTIF to address parking capacity at the Three Sisters and in Glen Etive. The Council, National Trust for Scotland and other key stakeholders recognise the lack of alternative travel options throughout Glencoe and this project will offer more sustainable choices of walking and cycling for the visitors which promotes responsible access and helps protect the national environment by providing an alternative to travelling by car.”

Since the start of the Fund in 2018 (and including R5) £18m of grant funding has been awarded to 74 projects across rural Scotland from 18 local authorities and both national park authorities – from the Scottish Borders to Shetland. 

For more information on RTIF, please visit: 

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