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Organisers of a crowdfunding appeal to raise cash to help pay for the final stages of a car park and bridge project at Glenfinnan are hoping that a little bit of the Harry Potter magic rubs off on potential donors.
The Wee Harry Potter Bridge Project has been launched this week by the tiny hamlet’s local SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation) in an effort to raise at least £20,000 in match funding for a new footpath and footbridge.
The new project, which has secured nearly £54,000 from the Scottish Government Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, runs alongside a separate bigger scheme to create a new community-operated car park with a footbridge of its own to link to the existing car park at the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre, and which has already been funded by the same scheme to the tune of £270,000.
The new four-week appeal for the £20,000 will see money raised for a footpath leading from the new car park to a new footbridge over the River Finnan that will mean visitors can avoid having to walk along the side of the busy A830 trunk road to access the route up to the viaduct, made famous in the Harry Potter movies.
The last few years, especially 2018 and 2019, have seen a massive upsurge in the number of tourists descending on Glenfinnan, with something like 350,000 people flocking annually to the area on the shores of Loch Shiel because of its Harry Potter links, as well as fans of the Outlander television series set in Jacobite times and those wanting to see the monument to the clansmen who took part in the 1745 rising.
But the boom has also witnessed the terrifying daily spectacle during the summer of young families running along the side of the main A830 road in a panic at the thought of missing the passing of the steam train, as well as drivers abandoning their cars and camper vans in a rush for the same reason.
This phenomenon happens three times a day, every day, in the main tourist season to coincide with the passing of the Jacobite steam train, also made famous by the Potter movies.
According to members of the SCIO, it has resulted in wing mirrors being struck by passing traffic; people walking around and between badly parked vehicles; wheelchair/ mobility scooter users having to use the main road carriageway; cars and motorhomes having to be pulled out of ditches; church events disrupted due to no space for wedding guests, mourners or parishioners and the bumps and scrapes as vehicles jostle for space.
SCIO chair, Fiona Gibson, says tenders for the new car park have now been drawn up and the hope is that diggers will be on site soon and the Wee Harry Potter Bridge Project is the final phase.
‘We are crowdfunding for the path and footbridge across the River Finnan so when people come in and park they can go straight across to the viaduct without going over the main road,’ she explained.
‘This is the only fundraising thing we’ve done, so we’re going great guns to raise the money as quickly as possible.
‘The car park should see work begin in January and be complete by March in time to be ready for the busy tourism season. We really want to get the footbridge element done as well, so it is all sorted at same time. They are separate projects but can be done together.’