Argyll and Bute’s reputation as a top visitor destination continues to grow

Boats in the harbour at Oban in Argyll.

By Aileen MacLennan

Measures taken by the council to protect the Argyll and Bute’s outstanding natural environment are helping to ensure the area remains one of Scotland’s top tourism locations.

Argyll and Bute’s reputation as a hugely popular visitor destination continues to soar and, at a meeting of the council’s Environment, Development Infrastructure Committee, councillors heard that a series of staycation initiatives have proved successful.

The council launched its Staycation Project following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions to address a surge in visitor numbers across the area that had prompted some concerns about the impact on local communities and pressures on infrastructure.

A package of measures was introduced which successfully tackled a variety of issues such as littering, inadequate toilet facilities, the need for waste disposal points, and parking facilities for camper-vans and motor-homes.

These included the appointment of a dedicated staycation project officer and staycation wardens, increased street sweeping and uplifts, regular anti-littering campaigns and the introduction of improved parking facilities.

Now, with domestic and international visitor numbers showing signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels, the council is working with its partners to take additional steps to ensure the local environment is safeguarded, and tourism facilities can cope with the surge in visitors.

These include:

  • Dedicated web pages on advice for visitors
  • The Motor-caravan Overnight Parking Scheme which provides dedicated parking facilities for drivers of camper-vans and motor-homes
  • A planned upgrade to the car park and toilet facilities at Glenmorag
  • Introduction of Welcome to Argyll and Bute and passing place signage
  • Re-introduction of portable toilet facilities at 11 tourist hot spots across the region

Argyll and Bute Council Leader, Councillor Robin Currie, right, said: “The feedback we have received from our local communities about the measures delivered through the staycation fund have been very positive, particularly around new infrastructure, additional information on available facilities and how to behave responsibly in our beautiful area.

“As well as the increase in domestic tourism and stay-cations, it’s great news that we’re now seeing an uplift in international visitors, all of which means that we must continue to be vigilant in terms of the impact this can have on the environment and on local people,

“We will continue to liaise with our partners to ensure that we respond to the challenges and opportunities that may arise.”

Meanwhile, pedestrians in Argyll and Bute will benefit from a range of pavement improvements over the next 18 months.

At a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, councillors agreed £750,000 of improvements as part of the 2023/24 Footway Reconstruction Programme.

As well as upgrading the overall surface of pavements, the programme will also see the quantity and quality of dropped kerb crossing points improved.

The council allocated the budget across its four administrative areas based on the percentage of pavements in each area. A full list of locations for improvement is available on the council website.

Councillor Andrew Kain, the council’s Policy Lead for Roads and Transport, said: “We maintain more than 530km of public footpaths – enough to stretch from Lochgilphead to Liverpool.

“The Footway Reconstruction Programme will ensure that we are able to maintain the standard of our pavement surfaces and ensure the quality and safety of pedestrian journeys for all users.”

Communities across Argyll and Bute have swung into action to provide the council with feedback on their local play parks.

More than 1,000 adults and 400 young people took part in a council-run consultation, which invited play park users, community councils, disability forums and pupils to consider priorities for their local park.

The consultation followed the award of Scottish Government funding of £938,000 for Play Park renewal, which the council will allocate to 28 play parks in the area: 11 in Helensburgh and Lomond; 11 in Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the islands; five in Bute and Cowal; and one in Oban, Lorn and the Isles.

Once the council has fully reviewed the results of the consultation, a report will go to each Area Committee to agree the priorities for each play park in their area.

Councillor Ross Moreland, pictured left,  the council’s Policy Lead for Climate Change and Environment, said: “We are committed to providing a safe, fun and high-quality environment and experience for children and young people across the area’s play parks.

“The excellent response from our communities to the consultation demonstrates the high value which local people place on these and we would like to thank everyone who took the time to let us know their thoughts. We look forward to reviewing all the responses and further enhancing the facilities on offer.”

Top picture: The new leisure centre on the pier and waterfront in Helensburgh.

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