13 January 2021

Trio of Aberdeenshire visitor and environmental projects secure VisitScotland funding

Aberdeenshire Council and a range of partners have secured vital funding for a trio of exciting visitor and environmental projects.

Successful bids to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) will pave the way for new initiatives to be undertaken across the region from as far afield as Glenshee, St Cyrus and Newburgh.

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, when it is safe to welcome back visitors.

Round three was open for applications from local authorities and National Park authorities, in partnership with their communities, and is aimed at funding infrastructure improvements such as parking, campervan facilities - including disposal points - viewpoints and toilet provision.

The project at Glenshee Ski Centre will see the construction of new fully-accessible ‘changing places’ toilet and shower facilities, installation of bike racks and e-bike charging points.

Part of the new facility will be open 24 hours a day, all-year round which will provide facilities for visitors to the area and those skiing, walking, climbing and cycling, even when the café is closed. For the first time, facilities for the disposal of ‘grey’ and ‘waste-water’ from camper vans will also be provided.

Across on the coast, the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve project will be delivered in partnership with Nature Scotland and will see an expansion of the existing car-park, refurbishment of the public toilets and provision of a safe outdoor ‘meet and greet’ space. As at Glenshee, EV charge points, changing places toilets and chemical toilet disposal for RVs will be included.

Further up the coast, the Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust, working with both NatureScot and Aberdeenshire Council on the Heads Up For Seals project, will now be able to replace the existing car-park at Newburgh Links to provide 65 dedicated parking bays, with a one-way system.  

The project will also upgrade the existing on-site interpretation boards about the local seal population and other wildlife found along the Ythan estuary.

Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “I am absolutely delighted that VisitScotland has supported these three very deserving projects. The funding success is testament to the determination and commitment not just of our own officers, but all those within the local partnerships who have worked tirelessly over many months and through challenging circumstances to create feasible, transformational projects.”

Vice-chair Cllr John Cox added: “These initiatives will improve the visitor experience for thousands of people to each of these sites every year and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour in the fullness of time.”

VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead added: “It is so important that we support work that aims to improve visitor facilities and the visitor experience, particularly when the tourism, hospitality and events industries remain closed under the current restrictions.

“We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and improvement works like these are crucial to ensuring our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come. This funding will help local communities improve their facilities, as well as enhancing the visitor experience both for now and in the future when conditions are right and it is safe to do so.”

Commenting on the St Cyrus project, Ben Ross, NatureScot Head of Nature Reserves, said: “St Cyrus is one of the richest and most diverse National Nature Reserves in Britain, so it is no surprise that it is extremely popular with visitors. Like many of our beauty spots, last year saw an increase in the number of people coming to the reserve to enjoy the great outdoors.

“This funding will help to ensure the facilities at St Cyrus are better able to meet that increased demand in future, helping more people to connect with nature at this special place.”

Cllr Isobel Davidson, chair of Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to receive this grant for the Heads Up for Seals project. This will help us to improve the car park and interpretation at Newburgh Beach. The beach and seal haul-out are a fantastic tourist asset in the area and it is important that we encourage people to the south side of the estuary to enjoy the wonderful wildlife and landscapes without disturbing the seals.”

David Farquharson, Managing Director of Glenshee Limited, commented “We have exciting plans to develop the resort as a year-round destination for adventure tourism. Replacing the toilet facilities is included in phase 1 of the redevelopment of facilities and will be vital in improving our offering to customers.”