By Elaine Brewer
A raft of improvements to visitor infrastructure across Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park moves forward this month, ahead of what is expected to be another busy visitor season.
A complete upgrade of the Conic Hill path, a replacement bridge at Bracklinn Falls and a ‘masterplan’ to improve the popular Tarbet Pier Picnic Site all feature in the initial phase of the National Park Authority’s programme of investment in quality visitor facilities.
The National Park saw unprecedented numbers of visitors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and numbers remained high in 2022 as people continued to enjoy the places they had discovered during lockdown and foreign tourists returned.
Sunset on Loch Lomond. Picture by Theresa McIntyre.
The first stage of a £900,000 package of works to repair and improve the path on Conic Hill, Balmaha, begins this week.
At Bracklinn Falls in Callander, installation of a replacement Bracklinn Bridge is in progress and on West Loch Lomond, at the busy Tarbet Pier Picnic Site, a planning application is underway for significant improvements to the site in coming years, including expanded visitor facilities and establishing a sustainable travel hub.
Stuart Mearns, Director of Place at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “The National Park is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor destinations and alongside ongoing work to support visitors, land managers and communities during the peak season, we are developing longer term plans to improve visitor services and infrastructure.
“These plans include upgraded facilities, paths and access routes, as well as projects which will over time ease visitor pressures and enable car-free travel.
“This month projects in some of our busiest locations, at Conic Hill, Tarbet and Bracklinn Falls, have all taken significant steps forward, helping prepare us for what we expect to be another very busy visitor season ahead.
“For each of these projects, and indeed any development work within the National Park, gains for climate and nature are vital. Providing a quality path on Conic Hill will help protect the area adjacent to the path and the important habitats and species to be found there.
“At Tarbet, while we make structural improvements to alleviate visitor pressures, we will also be improving biodiversity at the site and helping visitors embrace low emission travel.
“Beyond these three projects, we continue to review priorities for future investment throughout the Park and for ways we can encourage, and collaborate with, partners to upgrade their visitor sites.”
A £900,000 package of works to repair and improve the path on Conic Hill, Balmaha, will be delivered over the next three years. Conic Hill is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and the path is badly degraded.
The volume of visitors now being seen demands that the path be widened and strengthened to make it more robust, reduce impacts on nature, land management and livestock control and to ensure the hill can continue to be enjoyed in the years to come. The first phase of these works begins this week, with the path now closed until 31st March.
A planning application has this month been submitted for a package of works in Tarbet, part of a ‘master plan’ developed with local people and businesses. The proposals would see £1.5m improvements made to Tarbet Pier Picnic Site over the next two years, with further improvements in coming years.
The Tarbet Master plan includes improvements to the main car park.
Originally envisaged as a site for day visitors arriving by car and in coaches, numbers of visitors arriving by both modes of transport have increased considerably in recent years. This combined with the growing popularity of camper vans and motor homes has created a number of issues.
The Tarbet Master plan includes improvements to the main car park to encourage better flow of vehicles. The changes will also see the establishment of the site as a sustainable travel hub with provision of improved drop-off for coaches and shuttle buses, EV charging points, improved cycling routes and facilities, and better access to public transport.
Improvements to the pier, space for community events, helicopter access for Mountain Rescue, and expanded visitor facilities such as toilets and café are also planned in the years to come. Subject to planning approval, work is likely to begin towards the end of 2023.
Work is underway to install a new Bracklinn Bridge at the popular Bracklinn Falls site in Callander. The new bridge will provide a safe place to view the spectacular Bracklinn Falls and will be in place ahead of the 2023 visitor season, together with benches, safety barriers and information panels sharing the history and culture of the area.
A safe place to view the spectacular Bracklinn Falls.
Bracklinn Falls and the Bracklinn Circuit walking route are very popular with visitors to Callander in the east of the National Park. More than 70,000 people visit Bracklinn Falls every year. The new bridge is a simple and robust structure that fits well with the landscape of the Falls and is built to last.
Top of page picture is of Conic Hill and Balmaha by Bill Heaney.