SCOTLAND’s first national park is to roll out a decade-long tourism strategy after conceding there is a “lack of quality” infrastructure for visitors to one of the country’s most famous attractions.
The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (NPA) admits that certain areas are under “immense pressure” due to the number of visitors, with a cluster of “confusing” signage serving to “erode the scenic qualities” of Loch Lomond.
The authority also points to substantial transport challenges in the region, and has called for an “ambitious and creative approach” to the notorious stretch of the A82 between Tarbet and Inverarnan in order to transform it into one of “the world’s greatest lakeside roads.”
The wide-ranging draft tourism strategy, which will be discussed at a full board meeting of the NPA next Monday, describes Loch Lomond as “Scotland’s playground,” but does not shy away from the many challenges which have faced the authority since its inception in 2002.
The strategy, to be presented by Gordon Watson, the NPA’s director of planning and rural development, reveals that basic services for visitors must be improved in popular areas like Callander and Balloch if the park is to flourish.
It states: “The national park is Scotland’s playground; its accessibility brings huge challenges.
“Over the years there has not been enough investment. There is a lack of quality and provision of infrastructure that would suggest to visitors they are in a national park.
“Not glamorous stuff, but vital for attracting visitors who will be comparing us with other national parks and destinations around the world.”
The tourism strategy also reserves criticism for the proliferation of “confusing signage” which “erodes the scenic qualities” of the park, and proposes that such signs should be “used sparingly and consistently” from now on.
Mr Watson said the NPS’s vision is to transform the road so that it has roadside facilities and formal viewpoints, claiming the route has “the potential to rank alongside some of the world’s greatest lakeside roads.”
As well as improving the road network, the NPA is determined to encourage more visitors to use public transport, with plans to extend the successful water bus initiative on Loch Lomond to Loch Katrine.
Mr Watson explained yesterday: “We need to remind ourselves that these things don’t look after themselves. I think when the NPA was formed, there probably wasn’t enough realisation that you needed a rolling capital programme to ensure these sites and routes like the West Highland Way are up to the standard people expect.”
Peter Jack, chair of the Loch Lomond Association, said: “In some areas there is far too much signage, even in some of the most beautiful vistas, where there are signs saying take care of the capercaillie, even though there are no capercaillie there.
“A lot of tourism in the park is misguided. To me, it’s aimed at bringing in a category of tourists who don’t spend money, and who don’t have a full appreciation of the landscape and the views.”
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