Major improvements have started at a popular global tourist attraction in the Highlands where over 120,000 people visit each year to view the UK’s only population of bottlenose dolphins.
Chanonry Point on the Black Isle, which overlooks a feeding spot on the Moray Firth, has become a victim of its own success – leading to a £273,000 facelift to ease access to the site.
Chronic congestion at the local has resulted in traffic snarl-ups, causing concern for locals who are stuck in peak-time traffic jams.
The bottlenecks have also sparked fears that emergency services could be denied access.
Highland Council awarded a contract to Cleantech Civils Ltd for environmental improvement works at Chanonry Point.
Work has just begun and is scheduled for completion before Easter.
Coastal tourism and wildlife watching represent a very substantial sector within the Highland tourism industry and Chanonry is one of the jewels.Isobel McCallum, Highland Council Convenor
Highland Council convenor and local ward councillor, Isobel McCallum, said: “Coastal tourism and wildlife watching represent a very substantial sector within the Highland tourism industry and Chanonry is one of the jewels.
“It is a victim of its own success and congestion has become a problem. The improvements will contribute to our aspirations for the continued development of Highland as a high quality tourist destination.”
The car park and the access road will be closed until March 24.
Access to the Point for pedestrians and those arriving by bicycle will remain available throughout the works.
Charlie Phillips, an acclaimed wildlife photographer and field officer for the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, said: “It is extremely heartening, in these financially difficult times, to see Highland Council committing the funding and effort into upgrading the car park area at Chanonry Point.
“It’s a fantastically popular wildlife destination for many thousands of people every year, who come to watch the resident Bottlenose dolphins which I study and monitor.
The £273,000 Chanonry project promises “a generally enhanced visitor experience” through refurbishment of the existing car park area, provision of disabled parking spaces, cycle stands and new seating.
There will be a clearer route between the car park and the existing all-abilities path leading to the Point and information on the wider locality will encourage visitors to better understand the area, extend their stay on the Black Isle and revisit in the future.
Bottlenose dolphins are perhaps the best-known cetaceans found around Scotland.
They can be seen close inshore on both the east and west coasts, but are less frequently seen on the north coast and in the northern isles.
The Moray Firth supports the only known resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the North Sea. This is a small population of about 130 animals that ranges throughout the Moray Firth and all the way down the east coast at least as far as the Firth of Forth.
The Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation was created to protect the bottlenose dolphins that use this important area.
From land, groups of bottlenose dolphins can often be seen leaping close to shore on calm days, with April to September being the best months to see these animals in their natural habitat in this area.