Skye could seek World Heritage status amid tourism boom

The Skye Bridge. Picture: Chris Furlong/Getty Images.
The Skye Bridge. Picture: Chris Furlong/Getty Images.
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World Heritage status could be sought for the Isle of Skye as part of new plans to improve infrastructure and tourism.

The Highland Council paper sets out a range of short to long-term projects to ease pressure on the island, which has seen a significant increase in visitors in recent years.

Among the suggestions is to seek dual World Heritage site listing to recognise its landscape and wildlife and also its culture.

Councillor Ronald MacDonald, co-author of the paper, said: “The paper proposes two long-term ‘anchor’ project statements: a dual World Heritage Site listing for Skye and a Tall Ships project.

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“The World Heritage listing is intended to offer long run sustainability to the land based tourism industry, by attracting funding from a diverse range of sources.

“Similarly the Tall ships race, with various events built around it is intended to kick start the sleeping giant of marine tourism by way of offering imaginative and innovative funding solutions.”

Scotland already has six places with the UNESCO listing including the Forth Bridge, St Kilda and Neolithic Orkney.

Highland Council’s paper claims the status would provide it long-term funding for conservation, better access to global project management resources and and an enhanced identity.

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According to the paper, infrastructure issues on the island came to a “watershed” in 2017 with the “exponential growth” in tourist numbers.

Skye is Scotland’s second busiest visitor destination, with sites such Storr and Quirang currently having no entrance fee.

Figures in the paper from 2014 show there were 1.3 million visitors to the island and Lochaber in 2014, but Highland Council said issues came to a “watershed” this year.

The paper highlights problems with toilets, parking, WiFi, roads, 3G and 4G phone reception, public transport, wet weather facilities, affordable housing, off-peak events and distribution costs.

A number of potential short-term projects were also included in the paper to tackle some of these issues.

Workshops are being carried out across the island this week with stakeholders to discuss which projects to take forward.