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With visitor numbers rocketing by a massive 147 per cent in just five years to more than 460,000 in 2019, the National Trust for Scotland site at Glenfinnan has become the charity’s most visited property.
Glenfinnan is already a popular destination for its historic associations with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rising of 1745, which generates large numbers to visit the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Visitor Centre and the associated Jacobite Monument every year.
The 2019 visitor attraction monitor shows 462,235 visitors to Glenfinnan. This compares with 187,437 in 2015 so an increase of 147 per cent in just five years.
The current car park at Glenfinnan is experiencing over 2,000 visitors a day according to the NTS.
However, it is the featuring of the Jacobite steam train crossing the nearby viaduct as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series of films along with the Outlander books and associated television series that have boosted visitor numbers to unsustainable levels and causing major congestion and safety issues on the A830 trunk road which splits both sites.
But residents of the tiny hamlet on the shore of Loch Shiel are hoping the new community car park, which saw construction work start this week, will ease these growing traffic problems.
Two years ago, The Highland Council in partnership with Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO secured £269,906 of funding from the first round of the Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund managed by VisitScotland.
The project is matched by £115,674 in LEADER funding which is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP). The fund aimed at promoting economic and community development within rural areas.
The 10-week project started on Monday and is being managed by the council’s Project Design Unit and the principal contractor for the work is Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd.
Chairwoman of Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO Fiona Gibson said: ‘Glenfinnan community is very excited that practical work on building this much-needed car park is going ahead.
‘We would like to thank Highland Council, VisitScotland, Scottish Government and LEADER for their support and we look forward to providing visitors with a suitable place to leave their vehicles whilst visiting the area.’
Councillor Allan Henderson, commented on behalf of himself and the area’s other elected members, Ben Thompson and Denis Rixson, said the trio were delighted that the work was due to commence.
‘This has been a monumental effort from a small community, overrun with problem parking, delivered by a small, focused facilities group, in conjunction with the local landowner, who turned adversity into an opportunity to improve the visitor experience through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund,’ he said.
In addition to the car park, The Highland Council in partnership with Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO also secured additional funding of £53,704 from round two of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund with a successful Crowd Funder to match, organised by the community for the final phase of the Glenfinnan Viaduct project.
This will see a new footbridge and path link the new car park to the existing path to the viaduct, preventing visitors having to walk on the main trunk road. Construction of this is due to start soon.