Highlands gearing up for busy tourist season

One of the magnificent views from the Highland's newest tourist attraction. Picture: Ewen Weatherspoon/Contributed
One of the magnificent views from the Highland's newest tourist attraction. Picture: Ewen Weatherspoon/Contributed
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A World War II Festival, Highland gatherings and cycle sportives are amongst events due to take place in the Highlands over the summer months.

The tourism season will soon be getting underway once again, with a host of activities, things to see and do, and fresh and tasty locally-sourced food and drink on offer.

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland regional partnership director. Picture: VisitScotland

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland regional partnership director. Picture: VisitScotland

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said he was looking forward to another fantastic year.

He added: “As we progress towards the 2017 season, we have much to be excited about.

READ MORE: New Inverness Castle visitor attraction is a massive success

“We have just seen the opening of the Inverness Castle North Tower viewing platform – the first element in the redevelopment of the castle into a major visitor attraction – which will add significantly to the city’s draw as a global tourism destination.”

2017 marks Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and there are events taking place in the Highlands to mark this theme.

One such new event, the Loch Ewe World War II Festival, is being held in May in Loch Ewe and Aultbea, to showcase the intrepid Russian Arctic Convoys that braved the North Atlantic passage to Russia in extreme weather and war-time conditions.

Once described by Sir Winston Churchill as the “the worst journey in the world” they brought support to our ally in what was a vital strategic war effort.

The two-day extravaganza of military and naval re-enactments will be complemented with a movie night, Highland Swing band and D-Day Darlings singers to reminisce along with some serious vintage glamour and military style.

Another event takes place at Fort George at Ardersier on the anniversary weekend of the D-Day landings in June, where visitors can meet World War II soldiers who will teach them about the important role the fort and the surrounding landscape played.

Scott Armstrong said: “We are anticipating another good season in terms of our popular annual events, including the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Fort William, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Loopallu, Etape Loch Ness, the Highland Military Tattoo and Highland Games, including the Isle of Skye, Assynt, Glenfinnan and City of Inverness.

“Scotland’s very own answer to Route 66, the North Coast 500 has been one of the biggest tourism success stories of recent years.

“The route has captured the imagination of visitors around the globe while also providing a fantastic boost to tourism businesses in the Highlands.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the North Highland Initiative and other partners, to ensure we capitalise on the amazing success that the route has enjoyed so far.”

He added: “VisitScotland Expo is be taking place at the end of April in Glasgow and once again the Highlands will be well-represented to international buyers with a whole host of businesses, including Cawdor Castle, the Highland Folk Museum, Achnagairn Estate, Nevis Range, Tour Skye Ltd and Venture North.”

He said the tourism horizon in the Highlands – and indeed Scotland - is constantly changing and that VisitScotland has positively responded to the change in the way in which visitors are accessing information and inspiration about their holiday, as well as the welcome they receive when arriving in Scotland.

He went on: “We have been working with businesses in the tourism industry over the last year or more to take advantage of advances in digital technology and while there is still a lot of work to do, we are pleased with the number of businesses signing up to schemes such as the VisitScotland Information Partner Scheme and digital training opportunities.

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“The way we market the Highlands is also changing. With the huge reach potential of digital and social media, we will be focusing on producing digital content for uploading to the major media resources including Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and Instagram.

“This gives us a huge opportunity to build joint resources which can be used by the industry and provides a much greater reach than was ever thought possible by traditional means.

“I am very much looking forward to the coming season and I trust that both industry and visitors be delighted with the opportunities afforded to them throughout the coming year.”