Skye's Iconic Sites Project

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Misty Isle with a clear vision

The name Skye is said to reflect long forgotten Norse associations and to be derived from the word for cloud, but for many the Gaelic reference to the ‘Misty Isle’ is better known. Easy to access and hugely popular the island has undergone something of a tourism renaissance in recent years.

Popularity has come at a price. Groaning infrastructure struggling to cope with the influx of visitors is the most obvious sign. But help is at hand. Skye’s Iconic Sites Project has tapped into the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund to better promote the outstanding scenery, wildlife and culture of the areas.

The Outdoor Access Trust, who will lead on the project, are one of a number of partners and will oversee significant improvements to infrastructure and interpretation at three iconic sites – the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing and the Fairy Pools. Each site will have improved and more inclusive access, viewpoints, and better coordinated information to give high quality visitor experiences.

Dougie Baird, Chief Executive Officer of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland and Manager of Skye’s Iconic Sites Project, gave us a detailed insight into what the project aims to do and how it will deliver a range of welcome improvements.

Dougie, can you give us a flavour of the project?

Skye’s Iconic Sites Project will help to address the chronic lack of tourist infrastructure and co-ordinated interpretation on the Isle of Skye, making improvements to the quality of the visitor experience for a wider and more inclusive range of people at three of its most iconic and busiest sites - the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing and the Fairy Pools.

This will be achieved through the development of access infrastructure - paths, bridges, and viewpoints; path and habitat restoration and rehabilitation; and a programme of co-ordinated interpretation through information points and signage, together with promotion, marketing and joined up thinking within the wider context of Skye as a visitor destination.

Future proofing all three sites should not only encourage tourists to stay longer and explore other areas of the island, thus increasing the levels of spend; it should also ensure that the reputation of the island is maintained or improved as a ‘bucket list’ visitor destination. 

How did this project come about?

In recent years Skye has attracted numerous pieces of unwelcome publicity regarding it being ‘full’ and ‘closed to tourists’.   In 2018 CNN Travel famously listed Skye at number one on the list of tourist places to avoid, entirely due to the sense that it was beyond carrying capacity.

This comes as a direct result of the exponential rise in visitor numbers to the island and its most iconic sites for a number of years.   The Fairy Pools recorded an already unsustainable 80,000 visitors in 2016/17, to more than 180,000 in 2019; while in the same year a massive 240,000 people flocked to the Old Man of Storr.

The island can readily absorb more tourists.  However, a lack of the most basic infrastructure and tourist facilities to enable the most popular attractions to thrive under the increased pressure, access roads have struggled to cope and mountain paths and the surrounding vegetation have been overwhelmed and badly damaged.  

It was for this reason that the Skye Iconic Sites Project initiative (SISP), comprising the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (the project's delivery partner), Skye Connect (Skye’s destination management organisation), two local community organisations - the Staffin Trust and Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA), Highland Council, and Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (the principal landowner), was formed in 2018.

This informal collaborative alliance fully appreciates the real value in providing sustainable and long-term solutions to develop natural heritage attractions that can be enjoyed in the coming decades by all. 

SISP is tackling the challenges head-on and aims to improve visitor experience and achieve sustainable management of these remote but hugely popular locations.

Is this lack of investment in access infrastructure specific to the Isle of Skye? 

Despite their tourism issues being subjected to scrutiny by the UK and international media, Skye is definitely not alone.  The sheer weight of people rushing to Scotland's countryside as Covid-19 travel restrictions are eased has exacerbated the problems with parking at trailheads, fouling and the erosion of popular trails throughout the country.  It has also highlighted the lack of investment in access infrastructure that has been so clearly needed for many years.  This year’s growth is likely to bring a permanent rise in countryside use, as a new generation realise what is on their doorstep.  This is fantastic for health and wellbeing but means increased pressure on the countryside.

Skye’s Iconic Sites Project will provide a template that can be learned from and used elsewhere, so that sustainable tourism development can be achieved in remote and fragile locations throughout Scotland and further afield.

Tell us more about the details of the project?

The access infrastructure will be developed to help a wider and more diverse range of people access all three sites. The main elements of the work, phased over two years, includes the building of an all-abilities path at the Quiraing which will allow less able people, including those in wheelchairs, to get to the key viewpoint overlooking the vista of the Quiraing and the sea.  New bridges at the Fairy Pools will allow less confident and able people to cross the burns without fear of falling in.  The addition of viewpoints at all three sites will allow people to access key areas to best experience them.

The implementation of a comprehensive programme of habitat restoration work is key in arresting and reversing the current rate of environmental degradation experienced at the three locations - erosion scars are as much as 40 metres wide in some places! 

The project will also ensure that heritage values are maintained at a sustainable level in order that current and future generations can experience and enjoy all the sites in a much-improved condition. 

With a coordinated and iterative interpretive plan the project will help visitors to get the most out of their visit through improved information, interpretation and promotion at all three sites. It will be tailored to the needs of newer, and more diverse types of visitors, and take cognisance of their languages.  An essential element of this will be the authentic and sympathetic use of the Gaelic language and Gaelic culture rather than just a literal translation of local place names and flora and fauna.   Much of the physical information and interpretation will be delivered at the car parks, making it accessible to all, augmenting the basic facilities of parking and toilets.

The aims and objectives of Skye’s Iconic Sites Project are widely supported on the island with new car parks and toilet facilities at all three sites, either in progress or recently completed, via other coordinated initiatives.  The car parks will also deliver an added bonus.  Sustainability of the access infrastructure, habitat rehabilitation, and interpretation at all three sites will be provided via new income streams generated direct from car parking at each of the sites.

How is the project being funded?

The project has a total budget of just under £1 million.  It will benefit hugely from receiving  £650,516 from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF), led by NatureScot and is part-funded through the European Development Fund (ERDF); with additional partnership funding from the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland - £98,793, Scottish Government Rural Payments Inspections Division (SGRPID) - £150,000, the Minginish Community Hall Association - £20,000, and Highland Council - £10,000. 


The Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund is part of the Scottish Government’s current European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme, which runs through to 2023.  This is one of two ERDF Strategic Interventions led by NatureScot – the other is the Green Infrastructure Fund.

You can follow the European Structural Funds blog for ESF activities, news and updates. For twitter updates go to @scotgovESIF or use the hashtags #ERDF and #europeanstructuralfunds.

Gaelic version

Lèirsinn shoilleir an Eilean a’ Cheò

Thathar ag ràdh gu bheil an t-ainm ‘Sgitheanach’ a’ riochdachadh seann cheanglaichean Lochlannach is e stèidhichte air facal a bha a’ ciallachadh ‘sgòth’ agus ’s ann mar Eilean a’ Cheò a dh’aithnicheas cuid e. Tha an t-eilean soirbh gu leòr a ruigsinn agus tha turasachd air a dhol am meud gu mòr o chionn beagan bhliadhnaichean.

Ach tha cosgais an cois na fèille. Is gann gun tèid aig a’ bhun-structar cumail ris an àrdachadh seo. Ach chan eil cobhair fad às. Tha Skye’s Iconic Natural Heritage Sites Project air a’ Mhaoin Dualchais Nàdarra is Chultarail a chur gu feum airson aire air seallaidhean, fiadh-bheatha is cultar na sgìre a thoirt am feabhas.

Tha Outdoor Access Trust, a bhios a’ stiùireadh a’ phròiseict, air aon de na com-pàirtichean agus thèid bun-structar is dòighean mìneachaidh a leasachadh air trì làraichean ainmeil – Bodach an Stòir, a’ Chuith-raing agus Glumagan nan Sìthichean. Thèid gach làrach a thoirt am feabhas tro chothroman cleachdaidh is àiteachan seallaidh nas fheàrr agus fiosrachadh nas co-òrdanaichte airson sàr thursan do luchd-turais a thoirt gu buil.

’S e Dougie Baird, Àrd-oifigear Outdoor Access Trust an Alba is manaidsear a’ phròiseict. Dh’innis e dhuinn dè tha fa-near don phròiseact agus ciamar a bhios e a’ lìbhrigeadh nan leasachaidhean seo.

Dougie, an urrainn dhut blasad den phròiseact a thoirt dhuinn?

Bidh Skye’s Iconic Natural Heritage Sites Project a’ freagairt ri cion bun-structar turasachd is dhòighean mìneachaidh anns an Eilean Sgitheanach. Thèid tursan an luchd-tadhail a thoirt am feabhas do bharrachd dhaoine air trì de na làraichean as ainmeile agus as trainge – ’s iad sin Bodach an Stòir, a’ Chuith-rang agus Glumagan nan Sìthichean.

Thèid seo a choileanadh tro leasachadh a’ bhun-structair choiseachd – ceuman, drochaidean, àiteachan seallaidh; càradh cheuman is àrainnean; agus prògram mìneachaidh co-òrdanaichte tro bhùird fhiosrachaidh is soidhnichean, cuide ri sanasachd, margaideachd is iomairtean ceangailte an lùib co-theacsa nas fharsainge mun Eilean Sgitheanach mar àite turasachd.

Le bhith ag ullachadh nan trì làraichean don àm ri teachd, bu chòir gum bi luchd-turais air am brosnachadh gu fuireach nas fhaide agus tadhal air ceàrnaidhean eile den eilean agus mar sin a’ cosg barrachd airgid san eilean; bhiodh cliù an eilein air a ghleidheadh is air a neartachadh mar àite turais air am bu chòir don a h-uile duine tadhal.

Dè dh’adhbharaich stèidheachadh a’ phròiseict seo?

O chionn beagan bhliadhnaichean, tha pìosan naidheachd mhì-fhàbharach air nochdadh a tha air innse gu bheil an t-Eilean Sgitheanach làn no nach eil fàilte ro luchd-turais. Ann an 2018, chuir CNN an cèill gun robh an t-Eilean Sgitheanach aig àireamh a h-aon air liosta de dh’àiteachan a bu chòir do luchd-turais seachnadh air sàillibh ’s gun robh cuid den bheachd gun robh cus dhaoine ann a rèir bun-structar an eilein.

Thàinig an suidheachadh seo gu buil mar thoradh air àrdachadh mòr an àireamh an luchd-tadhail don eilean is na làraichean ainmeil thar grunn bhliadhnaichean. Chaidh 80,000 luchd-tadhail a chlàradh aig Glumagan nan Sìthichean ann an 2016/17, àireamh a bha neo-sheasmhach an uair ud ach chaidh còrr is 180,000 a chlàradh ann an 2019; agus anns an aon bhliadhna, chaidh 340,000 daoine a chlàradh aig Bodach an Stòir.

B’ urrainn don eilean barrachd luchd-turais a ghabhail. Ach air sgàth cion bun-structar bunaiteach is ghoireasan luchd-turais, tha barrachd chàraichean air rathaidean beaga ionadail is ceuman monaidh agus na bha a’ fàs ri an taobh a’ crìonadh is a’ fulang gu mòr.

’S ann air an dearbh adhbhar seo a chaidh an iomairt The Skye Iconic Sites Project (SISP) a stèidheachadh ann an 2018 agus anns a bheil na leanas an sàs: Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (com-pàirtiche lìbhrigidh a’ phròiseict) agus Skye Connect (buidheann stiùireadh àiteachan turais an Eilein), dà bhuidhinn choimhearsnachd ionadail – Urras Stafainn agus Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA), Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd agus Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (am prìomh uachdaran).

Tha an com-pàirteachadh neo-fhoirmeil seo a’ tuigsinn an luach an cois liubhairt fhuasglaidhean seasmhach is maireannach airson àiteachan turais nàdarra a leasachadh gus am faigh a h-uile duine tlachd asta fad iomadh bliadhna ri teachd.

Tha SISP air a dhol an sàs san trioblaid is e fa-near don phròiseact tursan an luchd-turais a thoirt am feabhas agus stiùireadh seasmhach a thoirt gu buil air na làraichean seo a tha an dà chuid iomallach ach air leth tarraingeach do luchd-turais.

An ann san Eilean Sgitheanach a-mhàin a tha an cion maoineachaidh ann am bun-structar inntrigidh ri fhaicinn?

Chan eil an t-Eilean Sgitheanach na aonar ged a tha na cùisean turasachd an sin air a bhith fo phrosbaig nam meadhanan san Rìoghachd Aonaichte agus air feadh an t-saoghail. Tha na sluaghan a thill do thuath na h-Alba an dèidh lasachadh bhacaidhean siubhail Covid-19 air trioblaidean pàircidh a thoirt am miosad, air salachar fhàgail ri taobh rathaidean agus slighean air feadh na dùthcha a mhilleadh. Tha a’ chùis air cion maoineachaidh ann am bun-structar inntrigidh a thoirt am follais air an robh feum fad iomadh bliadhna. Tha e coltach gum bi fàs sa bhliadhna seo ag adhbharachadh fàs buan agus ginealach ùr a’ cur eòlas air na th’ air a stairsnich fhèin. Bidh seo na bhuannachd airson sunnd is slàinte dhaoine ach thig buaidh mhòr air an tuath na chois. 

Bidh Skye’s Iconic Natural Heritage Sites Project a’ toirt teamplaid gu buil a ghabhas cleachdadh an àiteachan eile gus an soirbhich le leasachadh turasachd sheasmhach ann an àiteachan iomallach air feadh na h-Alba agus nas fhaide air falbh.

Nach innis thu dhuinn beagan a bharrachd mun phròiseact fhèin?

Thèid am bun-structar inntrigidh a leasachadh airson leigeil le farsaingeachd nas motha de dhaoine na trì làraichean a chleachdadh. Thèid prìomh eileamaidean na h-obrach a choileanadh thairis air dà bhliadhna agus togail ceum do gach comas aig a’ Chuith-raing na measg, a leigeas le daoine ann an cathraichean-cuibhle sàr àite seallaidh a ruigsinn far am faicear a’ Chuith-raing agus a’ mhuir. Leigidh na drochaidean ùra aig Glumagan nan Sìthichean le daoine aig nach eil de mhisneachd no de chomasan a dhol tarsainn air na h-uillt gu sàbhailte. Thèid àiteachan seallaidh ùra air na trì làraichean a chur air dòigh a leigeas le daoine tlachd fhaighinn asta.

Tha stèidheachadh prògram slàn de dh’obair ath-bheothachadh àrainnean riatanach airson stad a chur air crìonadh àrainneachail mar a tha e agus na h-àrainnean a neartachadh air na trì làraichean – tha an cron cho leathann ri 40 meatair ann an cuid a dh’àiteachan!

Tha e fa-near don phròiseact luachan dualchais a ghleidheadh aig ìre sheasmhach gus am faigh na ginealaichean a th’ ann is ri teachd cothrom eòlas a chur air agus tlachd fhaighinn às na làraichean ann an staid a tha fada nas fheàrr.

Thèid luchd-turais a chuideachadh gus am faigh iad nas urrainn às an turas tro fhiosrachadh nas fheàrr air na trì làraichean air sgàth plana co-òrdanaichte agus dhòighean mìneachaidh. Thèid a dhealbhadh a rèir feuman sheòrsachan ùra is nas measgaichte de luchd-tadhail agus e a’ toirt fa-near do an cuid chànanan. Tha e riatanach gun tèid a’ Ghàidhlig is cultar nan Gàidheal ùisneachadh le fradharc Gàidhealach seach eadar-theangachadh facal air an fhacal air ainmean-àite is lusan is ainmhidhean na sgìre. Thèid cuid mhòr den fhiosrachadh is mìneachadh a thoirt seachad anns na raointean-chàraichean a ghabhas cleachdadh leis a h-uile duine a dh’aindeoin comas agus a chuireas ri goireasan pàircidh is nan taighean-beaga.

Tha muinntir an eilein san fharsaingeachd a’ cumail taic ri amasan Skye’s Iconic Natural Heritage Sites Project agus obair a’ dol no air a coileanadh air raointean-chàraichean is taighean-beaga ùra air na trì làraichean tro iomairtean co-òrdanaichte eile. Thig buannachd a bharrachd an cois nan raointean-chàraichean. Thig sruthan airgid ùra gu dìreach bho chìsean pàiricidh air na làraichean a chuirear ri seasmhachd a’ bhun-structair inntrigidh, ath-bheothachadh àrainnean agus uidheam mìneachaidh air gach làrach.

Ciamar a thathar a’ maoineachadh a’ phròiseict?

Tha buidseat iomlan de bheagan fo £1 millean aig Skye’s Iconic Natural Heritage Sites Project. Thig £650,516 bhon Mhaoin Dualchais Nàdarra is Chultarail (NCHF), air a stiùireadh le NatureScot agus air a mhaoineachadh ann am pàirt tron Mhaoin Leasachaidh Eòrpach (ERDF); agus maoineachadh a bharrachd bho Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland - £98,793, Scottish Government Rural Payments Inspections Division (SGRPID) - £150,000, Minginish Community Hall Association - £20,000, Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd - £10,000.


Tha A’ Mhaoin Dualchais Nàdarra is Chultarail air a mhaoineachadh ann am pàirt tro phrògram na Maoin Leasachaidh Eòrpaich (ERDF) aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba, a bhios a’ dol gu 2023. ’S e seo fear de na dhà Eadar-theachdan Ro-innleachdail ERDF a bhios NatureScot a’ stiùireadh – ’s e Maoin na Bun-structair Uaine am fear eile.

Leanaibh blog nam Maoinean Structarail Eòrpaich airson an tuilleadh fios is naidheachd às ùr.  Rachaibh gu @scotgovESIF air Twitter no cleachdaibh #ERDF is #europeanstructuralfunds