Wildlife Watch Abernethy

The RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre has been reconfigured to increase its capacity without extending the footprint of the building. These improvements provide enhanced views of wildlife and the Caledonian forest. Natural light and solar heat has enabled the opening season to be extended from five months to eight months each year.

Grantee: RSPB

What we did

The Loch Garten Osprey Centre was reconfigured to increase its capacity without extending the footprint of the building. Glazing was installed where previously there were walls, providing improved views of wildlife and the Caledonian forest. Glass brings in natural light and creates solar heat, enabling the opening season to be extended from five months to eight months each year.


After two years of work the Loch Garten Nature Centre is open. And there are some very special visitors. RSPB Scotland's Jess Tomes explains how good it feels to welcome people back to the centre. The RSPB would like to thank the European Regional Development Fund for part-funding the refurbishment of the Loch Garten Nature Centre as part of the RSPB's Wildlife Watch Abernethy project.


The car park has been extended with marked spaces, ensuring that maximum use is made of the available area, and more visitors can be accommodated.

New interpretation in the centre and on the surrounding woodland trails, will enable visitors to learn about a range of local wildlife and habitats.

A schedule of talks, walks and activities will engage and entertain visitors and local communities. These will be promoted locally, on the RSPB website and via social media. A marketing and communications plan, including the installation of brown tourist road signs for the renamed centre, will encourage more people to visit.

Where the idea for the project came from

During 2019 the BBC are, for the first time, broadcasting Winterwatch, Springwatch and Autumnwatch from the same place – Nethybridge. They have installed two cameras on the Loch Garten Osprey nest. This will create an uplift in visitor numbers, and we need to improve the facilities and visitor offering to maximise on the opportunity. Investment in an improved visitor experience will encourage more visitors for many years to come.

How we will support the development and promotion of significant natural and cultural heritage assets

Loch Garten is the place where ospreys first returned to in the 1950s after a period of extinction in the UK. They will continue to be a significant attraction and we will promote live viewing of these enigmatic birds. We will develop interpretation and promote other natural heritage assets of the Cairngorms. This will include the story of Abernethy forest and the 200-year vision to double the forested area, extending up the mountains to the natural tree line. The importance of habitats that are home to an array of species will be promoted, such as the vast tracts of blanket bog and the Arctic-like montane habitat. We work with the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and Cairngorms Connect; we all aim to develop and promote the natural heritage of the area.

How local economic and social benefits will be created such as job creation, directly and within supply chains and other related sectors

The project created two new jobs; generated contracts for building and interpretation work; promoted Loch Garten, attracting more visitors who will spend money in the surrounding area, boosting the local economy.

The centre provides a place for people of all ages to: meet; enjoy a shared interest; exchange experiences; learn about natural heritage; be physically active outdoors. All of this will benefit wellbeing and create social benefits.

How the community has helped us develop our ideas

The head teacher of two local primary schools is keen for pupils to take part in activities at Loch Garten. Therefore, outdoor education activities will be delivered as part of this project. Local children recently prepared chalk boards for the path to the centre which illustrate activities in which visitors can participate.

Visitor feedback demonstrates that people value face to face engagement. A Visitor Engagement Officer and local volunteers will inspire tourists and the local community with the story of the landscape and its wildlife.

How our project fits into the bigger picture in relation local, regional or other development plans

Nationally the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy has the aim ‘to conserve biodiversity for the health, enjoyment and wellbeing of the people of Scotland, now and in the future.’ Through inspiring people to care for Scotland’s nature our project will contribute towards this aim.  Our project will complement the plans of both the CNPA and Cairngorms Connect.

How our project will make a difference to promote and enhance heritage assets and enhance visitor experiences in the long-term

A transformed centre will provide a quality visitor experience for years into the future and present the perfect opportunity to promote Loch Garten and attract new and repeat visitors.


Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund

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