£5m award for Highlands & Islands tourism

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The Highlands and Islands are to receive a £5 million of funding to help boost tourism.

Scottish Tourism & Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced that nine projects will share the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The money will be used to promote the outstanding scenery, wildlife and culture of the Highlands and Islands.

The funding has been awarded through the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

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 Autum

Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop at Loch Garten Reserve / Image Credit: Ewen Weatherspoon/SNH

nwatch 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.

Multiple attractions along the country’s famed North Coast 500 will benefit including a new visitor centre and improved car parking facility at Corrieshalloch Gorge Gateway to Nature.

Strathnaver Museum in North West Sutherland will also be renovated and refurbished into a leading heritage hub in the region.

Cabinet Secretary Fiona 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.