Shetland Amenity Trust has announced that Corramore Construction Ltd will be the main contractor for the £5.4 million project, which will incorporate a visitor centre, education centre and new and “much improved” self-catering accommodation, as well as improved access and parking.
A start date has yet to be confirmed, but it is expected that the contractor will be on site around the end of this month, with works estimated for completion in 20 months.
Shetland Amenity Trust general manager Jimmy Moncrieff, said: “This is a big day for Shetland. We have been working towards this point for 12 years, and we are confident that Corromore will deliver quality workmanship, on time, and within budget.
“It has been a long process of gestation and this is a huge point in the project, it means it’s going to happen. Looking to 2014 we’re going to have a world class tourist attraction at Sumburgh Head with a first-class visitor centre.”
Sumburgh Head is an RSPB managed bird reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest which already attracts large numbers of visitors. As well as one of the most accessible bird colonies in the UK, Sumburgh Head boasts an early Stevenson lighthouse. The class-A listed structure was designed by Robert Stevenson and built in 1821, with the light controlled and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board.
The re-development project to maximise the area’s potential is led by Shetland Amenity Trust, in partnership with the RSPB and in co-operation with the NLB. It is expected it will benefit Shetland’s natural heritage and have a significant impact on heritage tourism in the area.
Mr Moncrieff said visitors and locals would be able to learn about birds, cetaceans, the history of the lighthouse, with its smithy and engine room that drives the foghorn, and will be able to go up the lighthouse tower as well.
In addition there will be information on the area’s World War II story, plus its geology and archaeology – there was an Iron Age fort on the site (the burgh of Sumburgh means fort). Mr Moncrieff said: “It will add to the critical mass of world class attractions Shetland is known for and will increase a cluster of attractions in the South Mainland.” Families will be able to spend the whole day in the area, he said, with Scatness, Jarlshof, Quendale Mill and the Croft House Museum all nearby.
The self-catering accommodation will be moved to a different area of the the site and will be upgraded to at least four-star status.
Corramore Construction Ltd was established in 1999, and is based in the town of Magherafelt in Northern Ireland. The company has been involved in a wide variety of projects in recent years, including the refurbishment of listed buildings.
Corromore Construction director Adrian McIvor said: “We are delighted to be awarded the contract and were looking forward to working in Shetland. Corramore actively support partnering arrangements with our sub-contractors and suppliers and this results in all parties working together to achieve agreed goals to the benefit of all concerned.”
The re-development of Sumburgh Head can be followed on the recently-launched website www.sumburghhead.com.
It will be regularly updated with news, information, photos, and details of public access as work begins and progresses on the site.
People will be invited to share information and interesting stories about the area throughout the construction phase. The website also includes details of what the public can expect to find on the site once work is completed in 2014.
Over £3.7 million of the funding has come from national and European sources, including Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP); European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); Heritage Lottery Fund; Historic Scotland; Highlands & Islands Enterprise; Scottish Natural Heritage; The Wolfson Foundation; the SIC, Shetland Amenity Trust and RSPB.