A project to create a visitor hub and improve access at Hermaness National Nature Reserve is to go ahead after funding of more than £286,000 .
The Hermaness reserve in Unst overlooks Muckle Flugga Lighthouse and is home to thousands of seabirds including fulmars, skuas, shags, gannets, puffins and kittiwakes.
The development plans have secured backing from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).
Increasing visitor numbers were causing erosion of peat on the old path to Hermaness Hill, where sensitive bird species also nest.
NatureScot, in partnership with Shetland Islands Council, is looking to create a recycled plastic boardwalk provide new toilets, improved car parking and a sheltered interpretation point. In total, the project is receiving more than £857,000, including the RTIF funding and over £562,000 from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF). NatureScot is also contributing over £9,000.
Shetland development manager for Visit Scotland Steve Mathieson said: “It is so important that we support these projects that aim to improve facilities, as well as the visitor experience, particularly at a time when the tourism and hospitality industry is really suffering.
“Due to Covid-19, there is evidence that a new, homegrown audience is discovering and enjoying Scotland’s more remote locations, such as Hermaness, which is fantastic. Improvement works like this are crucial to ensuring the NNR remains sustainable for years to come.”
Tourism secretary Fergus Ewing said: “We know that at times tourism can bring some additional pressures to popular sites, particularly in our local communities. The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund was created to address these issues whilst enhancing visitors’ experiences in Scotland’s rural areas.
“The Hermaness visitor hub is a project with exciting potential and will provide significant benefits to visitors and to local residents. I look forward to seeing the completed project.”