Fairy Pools, Skye: Islanders meet challenge of 'bucket list' tourism

They have inspired many a magical moment – and a torrent of Instagram posts.

The Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Skye, have become one of the island's most popular tourist draws with visitor numbers soaring in recent years. PIC: Lauri Sten/Flickr/CC.
The Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Skye, have become one of the island's most popular tourist draws with visitor numbers soaring in recent years. PIC: Lauri Sten/Flickr/CC.

Now the soaring popularity of the Fairy Pools on Skye has been met by a community dealing with a deluge of visitors to their once peaceful glen.

A new £800,000 140-space car park and off grid toilet block near the beauty spot at Glenbrittle has now been officially opened by Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes

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It brings to a conclusion work by a community determined to face the challenges of growing ‘bucket list’ tourism on the island.

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Around 13,000 people visited the Fairy Pools in 2006 with the figure climbing to 82,000 in 2015 and then an “unsustainable” 180,000 visitors in 2019 as the beauty spot routinely started to appear on ‘must do’ guides.

Graham Campbell of the Minginish Community Hall Association, which has led the development of the new facilities, said:

"The nature of tourism has changed on Skye. There are still people who want to come for a week, park up somewhere and walk the Cuillins. We still have that but we all have a lot of visitors who want to do two to three things in a day. I suppose we all do that on holiday.

"We have had an enormous increase in visitors and it was causing great problems for the residents of Glenbrittle. Vehicles were parking on verges, delivery drivers were refusing to go into the glen and there was concern around emergency services, including Mountain Rescue.

"We really don’t want that in an area. We are so reliant on tourism, we had to make it work. We have to deal with it and we have to support it.”

MCHA acquired the land for the car park and toilets from Forestry and Land Scotland under the Community Asset Transfer scheme.

The car park site was then leased to Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, who will deliver the scheme and handle the liabilities for a 20-year period on condition they construct, operate and maintain the car park and toilets.

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Admission to the car park is £5, with the toilets free to use for paid-up visitors.

Dougie Baird, Chief Executive of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, said: “There is a long-term issue of lack of basic infrastructure at popular remote destinations throughout Scotland.

“The hugely successful landlord/tenant collaboration forged between MCHA and OATS is the perfect model to demonstrate how effective third-sector partnerships can address these issues.”

Government grants were secured for the work which in turn unlocked other funding streams.

The income from the car park renta is helping to fund more progressive community projects on Skye with MCHA now researching the need for affordable housing on the island.

Mr Campbell said: “ The car park and the toilets has given us a bit of cash that we can do more things with. The project has also given us a level of confidence as an organisation. As an organisation, we now have a reputation.”

The new car park and toilets means the site can now safely accommodate 200,000 visitors a year.

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Government minister Kate Forbes said she was “delighted” the Scottish Governmet had been able to support the scheme.

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