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THE Innovation in Tourism Award at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) 2016 has been awarded to the Mull Eagle Watch project.
Entered by the Mull and Iona Community Trust on behalf of the Mull Eagle Watch partnership, the project had to compete against stiff competition in a year which attracted more nominations than ever before.
The project was hosted for the first time by Mull’s two community-owned woodlands.
One site was at West Ardhu owned by NW Mull Community Woodlands Ltd and purchased in 2010, and the other at Tiroran Community Forest, owned by SW Mull and Iona Development purchased in 2015 from Forestry Commission Scotland.
The harvesting in both forests is managed on their behalf by Tilhill Forestry, which worked diligently with RSPB and the community to ensure the nesting white-tailed eagles were able to nest successfully as forestry operations continued.
The involvement of local volunteers, NGOs, government agencies (including the VisitScotland office in Craignure, which was contracted to run the Mull Eagle Watch booking service) all contributed to the success of the two public viewing sites.
The judged said: ‘The success of Mull Eagle Watch involves many partners to create one of the UK’s most high-profile wildlife attractions, featuring Mull’s majestic white-tailed eagles. It is the mix of involvement with organisations, communities – human and digital – that impressed the judges and raising money for local causes.
‘Congratulations to the Mull and Iona Community Trust for the Mull Eagle Watch. For creating and sustaining one of the United Kingdom’s most high-profile wildlife attractions. Working across the community with public and private sector groups, engaging with schools, residents, social media, Mull Eagle Watch goes from strength to strength – creating a destination in its own right.’
Another Mull business, Isle of Mull Cottages, was also shortlisted in the Innovation in Tourism category and the ‘friendliest bar/pub category was won by Macgochans in Tobermory.
As a regional winner, Mull Eagle Watch will now go forward to the Scottish Thistle Award finals in Edinburgh in March 2017.
The Mull Eagle Watch partnership comprises MICT, SNH, FCS, Police Scotland and RSPB and has been showing people eagles since 2000. It retained its five-star VistScotland grading as an ‘exceptional’ wildlife experience and holds the gold award under the Green Tourism Business Scheme.