Artist impression of the reinstated Roderick Dhu Watch Tower (Above)
Local charities step in to lead efforts to tackle traffic chaos
An ambitious £600,000 Trossachs Visitor Management Project has been developed by two local heritage charities in the National Park:- the Steamship Sir Walter Scott Trust and the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs - in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland and with the support of local community groups, Police Scotland, the National Park, Stirling Council and Scottish Water.
A comprehensive package of visitor infrastructure improvements is planned and a number of planning applications have recently been lodged with the National Park to enable works to get underway in 2021 if funding is secured.
The partners are hopeful that a bid for £375,000 from the Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which is designed to help areas suffering from visitor pressure, will be successful. The outcome of the bid to the scheme administered by VisitScotland should be known by mid-December. Additional funding is being provided by the Steamship Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland, the Friends and local community hydro schemes.
James Fraser, CEO of the Steamship Trust and Chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, who is coordinating the project said: “There is clearly an urgent need to relieve the chronic problems created by visitor pressures in the heart of the Trossachs and, in particular, traffic congestion caused by excessive road verge parking which is impacting adversely on the quality of life for local residents who regularly have problems going about their daily business safely.
“Our proposals aim to do just this in positive and sensitive ways that will also enhance the quality of the visitor experience in the popular Brig O’Turk/Ben A’an/Loch Katrine visitor corridor and encourage the dispersal of visitors to other parts of the Trossachs area where it is less busy.
We are delighted to have the strong backing of six local community groups and a range of other bodies and businesses who are keen to see some of the improvements in place for 2021 after a summer of chaos.’’
Surge of Visitors
It is planned to invest in visitor infrastructure improvements at Ben A’an Car Park, below the popular Ben A’an mountain path, and at the Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar visitor hubs at either end of Loch Katrine, which is credited with being the birthplace of Scottish Tourism due to the writings of Sir Walter Scott and others in the early 1800s that led to the first surge of visitors to the Trossachs.
These three sites collectively now consistently have in excess of 200,000 visitors a year and there has been a marked growth in recent years and particularly following the mid-summer easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions that led to road closures and the introduction of temporary traffic regulation orders to control excessive and dangerous roadside verge parking.
Expanded car parks
The plans include well-designed expanded car parks with 110 additional spaces, improved disabled parking and bus drop-off and pick-up points across the three sites at Ben A’an, Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar Pier; additional overnight campervan bays with hook up facilities, electric vehicle and bike charging points, public litter recycling points and water refill stations at the Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar Pier visitor hubs; a new mobility hub and extended public toilets at Trossachs Pier to provide treble the current capacity and the reinstatement of the historic Roderick Dhu Watch Tower path and scenic lookout above Trossachs Pier Car Park.
The planned investment at these locations will be augmented by improved signing and information/orientation points at ‘spoke and hub’ locations around the long established 40 mile Trossachs Trail.
Commenting on the plans, local MSP Bruce Crawford said: “I am very supportive indeed of these well thought through practical proposals which have attracted support from a number of community and business groups as well as Police Scotland and other agencies. The areas in the vicinity of Ben A’an and Loch Katrine have found themselves under huge pressure from the sheer volume of visitor numbers over a long period, but the pressure has only increased over recent months as more and more people choose to staycation.
“I truly hope the Steamship Trust, the Friends and their partners are successful in securing funding as this kind of infrastructure improvement is badly required.”