Groundwork For Slow Tourism

In February – March 2021, North West Highlands Geopark Ltd delivered a project to provide a platform for communities and other stakeholders to consider options for working together to solve some of the challenges associated with high visitor volumes.  

This project was supported by NatureScot, through the Better Places Green Recovery Fund.

The NatureScot brand | NatureScot

A full Project Report can be viewed here.

Activities included:
  • an online workshop bringing stakeholders together to consider collaborative planning,
  • a consultation with the local community around Durness to better understand their concerns/aspirations for SmooCave, and;
  • commissioning a formal STEAM report (an industry-standard economic impact modelling tool for the North West Highlands Geopark region. 

These activities were carried out to cultivate a more positive and proactive culture around planning for higher visitor numbers in ways that protect, celebrate, and conserve the things that make the North West Highlands Geopark unique and special.

  1. Results of the Smoo Cave consultation should be made available to the Highland Council Infrastructure and Environment officer and the Durness Community.  An application could be made to the NatureScot Better Places fund round 2 by May 14th to develop a light touch visitor management plan and interpretation materials following the NatureScot Management for People guidance document. Funding may be available from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure fund, round 4 to implement parking or path improvements. This should be led by the Highland Council and Durness Community but Geopark staff could support the work, particularly on developing interpretation and visitor information. 
  2. The North West Highlands Geopark should be considered by Destination Managers as a discrete destination within the Highlands and within Sutherland, because of its;
    1. unique and distinctive natural and cultural heritage,
    2. particular infrastructure issues, 
    3. distinctive identity/culture, and;
    4. UNESCO designation and branding. 
  3. NWHG should coordinate a heritage and science tourism working group with local stakeholders, to develop a series of heritage tourism objectives for North West Highlands Geopark and facilitate communication between different stakeholders.
  4. The Geopark management body (NWHG) should offer to participate in Destination Management or Planning work particularly to contribute heritage-based objectives to any action plans from;
    • Venture North
    • North by North West
    • The Sustainable Tourism Subgroup of the Sutherland Community Partnership
    • Wester Ross Tourism Partnership
  5. NWHG should input into the North West Highlands 2045 Vision group to ensure heritage tourism planning is included in the 2045 Vision.
  6. Keep Venture North informed in VisitScotland’s UNESCO National Trail development

Watch the online workshop presentations again below.  These include an introduction to the project, the Wester Ross Biosphere Destination Management Plan and Wester Ross Tourism partnership, and the results of the Smoo Cave consultation.


Read More on how we are encouraging slow tourism in the Northwest Highlands Geopark