Old Man of Storr to get its own visitor centre

The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. Picture: TSPLThe Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. Picture: TSPL
The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. Picture: TSPL
One of Skye's most famous landmarks could soon have a new visitor centre run under community management.

The Staffin Community Trust (SCT) has secured a mandate after it asked local residents for their views on its aspiration to purchase or manage Highland Council-owned land at the Old Man of Storr.

The iconic beauty spot attracts over 100,000 people from all over the world each year but has seen severe parking congestion in recent years.

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SCT directors helped hand deliver surveys to Staffin households and businesses last November in a major community consultation and have now published the results in a 40-page report. SCT was delighted that 140 surveys were returned, giving a 54.9% response rate.

The local authority owns an 82-hectare site at the Storr from the roadside upwards and SCT has been in talks for 18 months about working in partnership for continued improvements to the visitor experience at the location.

SCT views it is a “fantastic opportunity” for the community to have a direct involvement at the site, potentially creating local employment and marketing Staffin and local businesses far more strongly.

This could involve a new off-road main car park, toilets, interpretation and refreshment kiosk.

The key survey question on whether there was community support for the SCT managing and/or purchasing all or part of the Storr site saw 85.6% reply “Yes”.

There was also majority support for a new main car park, parking charges and almost 90% of residents supported the construction of public toilets, accompanied by a deluge of comments from local people criticising the absence of facilities and claiming they have seen tourists regularly caught short at the busy site.

More than half (53.7%) of residents also supported the proposed creation of a refreshment kiosk/information point at the Storr.

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This is an important proposal for SCT as securing funding to build and maintain toilets would be costly, and it is the board’s view that some type of commercial operation would have to be established so that an income can be generated to meet the overheads and employ staff.

SCT acknowledges community concerns about how a building could be constructed sensitively at the location.

SCT is fiercely proud of its track record of promoting and caring for Staffin’s natural environment, which is littered with top tier heritage designations, and would be looking for a building which would complement the unique setting.

SCT chairman Donald MacDonald said: “This is a unique opportunity for Skye to develop a much improved visitor experience.

“It will benefit the Island as a whole and in particular could be a game changer for the communities in the north as we move forward to managing the high volume of visitor numbers to this iconic destination and to other sites, such as the Kilt Rock and the Quiraing.

“The next few months will involve SCT and Highland Council in intensive discussions on how best to pull together a design team who will help shape this new venture.

“The most important thing is that this needs to live up to the expectations of the community and visitors; it must be fit for purpose and yet blend into the surrounding environment.

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“I believe that this will an exciting proposal for architects and designers and would personally recommend that this goes out to competition to ensure choice and quality options are presented back to the wider community.”

SCT’s board is meeting next week to discuss the project ahead of further talks with council officials, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Community Ownership Support Service.

SCT is keen to establish a timetable for the project’s delivery and will involve the local community and other stakeholders throughout the process.

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