13 major new projects showcase the heritage, culture and scenery of the Highlands & Islands

30 May 2023
Immersive pod interior - Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project
Virtual reality tours of important archaeological sites along the Hebridean Walking Route and the creation of two museums at Kilmartin and Strathnaver are just some of the projects included in the £22M funding.

The Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF) has been hailed a success for supporting 13 major new projects showcasing the outstanding local scenery, wildlife, and culture of the Highlands & Islands.

The NCHF, led by NatureScot, and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), supported projects that encourage visitors to experience a wider range of the unique nature and culture of the Highlands and Islands. The fund also aimed to benefit communities, with the projects it supports helping to retain local jobs and services.

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Speaking at an event at NatureScot’s Great Glen House today to celebrate the success of the fund and its projects, NatureScot’s Deputy Director, Eileen Stuart, said: “The NCHF programme has been a resounding success. It’s been a wonderful journey seeing these 13 projects come to life, bringing sometimes overlooked corners of Scotland to the forefront and benefitting rural communities. With its breath-taking scenery, the Highlands and Islands have always drawn people from far and wide, and these projects open the window even wider to the area’s fascinating nature, culture, and history.”

The 13 projects

1. Kilmartin Museum 

This project will renovate Kilmartin Museum into a modern visitor attraction and learning centre. The work will involve remodelling the existing buildings and adding a new extension.  Improved visitor facilities will include a modern kitchen and overflow parking.  Outdoor interpretation and digital interpretation will enhance the quality of the visitor experience.

2. The Coast that Shaped the World 

A project led by West Highland College UHI. It will create a website, app and programme of digital exhibitions along the west coast of Scotland narrating the maritime stories of coastal communities. It will convey how maritime, cultural, and natural heritage helped to shape the world.  Local stories will be mapped and gathered, creating the website and app to inspire potential tourists

3. Uibhist Virtual Archaeology Project 

This project will be delivered by Lews Castle College UHI and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.  The project will create a series of augmented reality experiences for seven archaeological sites located along the Hebridean Way walking route.  Complementary mixed-media exhibitions will be established at fixed locations.  The augmented reality and mixed-media products will combine interactive reconstruction images of archaeological sites with multimedia information adding detail and depth to the visualizations.

4. Dundreggan Rewilding Centre 

Trees for Life plan to construct a centre at Dundreggan where people can experience an ancient pinewood and unique juniper forest, and discover more about Gaelic history and rewilding.  It will feature interpretation about Dundreggan’s natural heritage, engagement with Gaelic culture, forest play facilities, accessible trails, outdoor learning and events, indoor study and research, along with improvements to the wider natural heritage.

5. Corrieshalloch Gorge Gateway to Nature 

A National Trust for Scotland project to create a new visitor centre, constructed to form a gateway to Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach.  New path networks with wayfinding and signage will be developed and parking provision will be improved and expanded.

6. Wildlife Watch Abernethy 

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

7. Access to Orkney Heritage 

This Orkney Islands Council project will create greater access to heritage sites and assets across the smaller isles of the Orkney archipelago. The project will improve interpretation information about the sites and improve dedicated trails and routes which have been developed to encapsulate the main heritage locations of each isle.

8. Strathnaver Museum 

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This redevelopment project will conserve the historic church that houses the current museum and improve the visitor experience. In addition the project will secure the condition and integrity of the collections, extend outreach work across the area, increase the services offered on site, increase the number of staff and improve research spaces.

9. Hermaness Hill Path & welcome area 

The installation, by NatureScot, of boardwalks in this popular area will reinstate the historic route to Muckle Flugga lighthouse signalling station and create a circular walk around Hermaness National Nature Reserve whilst protecting fragile blanket bog and rare nesting birds.  Further information will be provided for visitors, and other local tourist attractions will benefit too.

10. The Real Wild West 

Archaeology Scotland will work with the West Ardnamurchan Community to develop their Adopt-a-Monument scheme to create a trail, tourist hubs, and physical and digital experiences, improve the condition and maintenance of ten heritage sites and develop ‘slow tourism’ adventures for visitors.

The Real Wild West: Archaeology Scotland project

11. Scotland's Wildlife Discovery Centre 

With Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland plan to create a centre to showcase the richness and diversity of our native wildlife and its place in the world.  The centre, at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, near Kingussie, will become a gateway to the landscape and wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park. Founded in 1909 the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s purpose is to connect people with nature and safeguard species from extinction.

12. Skye Iconic Sites Project 

The Outdoor Access Trust working in partnership with local groups will provide much-needed 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 co-ordinated information on and off site to give high quality visitor experiences.

Skye Iconic Sites project

13. Spirit of the Highlands: Spirit: Journeys

A new approach to enhancing the visitor experience in the Highlands and Islands.  Spirit: Journeys will showcase the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands through stories which will provide digital content and multi-media footage. The project will enable visitors to create bespoke journeys through the Highlands and Islands using a suite of interactive digital content and assets. It will be marketed pre, during and post visit to encourage a deeper engagement with the area’s distinctive heritage, and facilitate authentic connections with the communities of the Highlands and Islands, while informing the visitor about sustainability.  

The Scottish Government’s ERDF programme provided £8.2m of NCHF funding for the 13 projects, with match funding from other sources bringing overall investment to more than £22m.  

Report and images courtesy of Nature Scot.