Newly opened pontoon to improve access to tourist hotspot Balmaha

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The idyllic setting of Balmaha on the banks of Loch Lomond will be more accessible to visitors after a new pontoon built by a local business was formally opened.

A 55ft pontoon on the East Bank of Loch Lomond was built by Frasers of Balmaha on June 8 by the 8th Duke of Montrose and could further drive economic progress in the village.

The ribbon cutting.

The ribbon cutting.

Construction of the £108k floating structure was made possible thanks to a £50k financial package from Bank of Scotland and £25k grant funding from Forth Valley & Lomond LEADER Local Action Group. This was supplemented by £33k of the business’ own capital.

Crucially, the pontoon will allow disabled visitors to access the east side of Loch Lomond and allow the ‘Cruise Loch Lomond’ boat to land at the village.

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Sandy Fraser, owner of Frasers of Balmaha said: “Balmaha is an extremely popular, rural destination but with limited parking facilities and an ancient infrastructure that we needed to modernise. This pontoon will give visitors more transport and access options, especially for those with a physical disability, when exploring all the area has to offer.

“We were very lucky to have a supportive network of advisers, including the National Park, during the planning permission process, and Forth Valley & Lomond LEADER Local Action Group. Bank of Scotland understood our business model, opportunities for growth and the community and sector in which we operate.

“In opening up this new route to Balmaha, via boat across Loch Lomond, we hope visitor numbers will continue to increase as we compete with other activity and adventure-led tourism destinations. It will also allow us to tap into the 80,000 walkers who use the West Highland Way pathway every year, to drive additional footfall and revenue.”

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Donal Church, relationship manager at Bank of Scotland, said: “Scotland is renowned for attracting visitors from around the world with the tourist industry contributing more than £11billion to the Scottish economy. It is important for businesses, like Frasers of Balmaha, to position themselves for success in order to maximise their share of this growing market.

“We’ve worked with the family for over six years. What has really stood out for us is the strength of the Fraser family’s business, reputation and their passion for the wider local region of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs. The Frasers, led by Sandy, identified an opportunity that would benefit not only their own business interests, but also the wider community and made it happen by securing financial support and managing the project.

“We have a team of relationship managers working closely with firms across the tourism sector in Scotland. It is important for us to build our understanding of any market to provide expert advice, especially around market trends, so as to continue to help SME businesses prosper in a competitive economic landscape.”

The project was part funded by European money, with funding from Forth Valley & Lomond LEADER.

Chair of the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER group, Douglas Johnston, said: “Balmaha Pontoon was one of the first projects approved by the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER Group as it is an excellent example of a private business leading the way on a project which will bring many benefits to a community whilst also bringing economic benefit to the wider rural area.

“We would love to see more projects like this coming forward for LEADER funding whilst there is still funding left. It’s always worth having a chat with the LEADER team about project ideas which will improve the rural economy of an area. Well done to Sandy and all at The Oak Tree Inn!”