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Community / Grant funding pledged to upgrade of Hermaness Nature Reserve

The spectacular scenery at Hermaness. Photo: Yolanda Bruce

MORE than £850,000 of new funding has been allocated to plans to revamp the Hermaness National Nature Reserve in Unst.

National agency NatureScot will install 1,940 metres of recycled plastic boardwalk to reinstate the historic route to Muckle Flugga lighthouse signalling station at the reserve, creating a circular route around the site while protecting fragile blanket bog and rare nesting birds.

A visitor hub will also be installed at the reserve entrance, housing interpretation to accommodate an increasing number of visitors.

The project has secured £541,718 from the European Regional Development Fund, warded through the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot.

A further £286,000 has been granted from the Scottish Government’s rural tourism infrastructure fund.

Giving access to some of Scotland’s most spectacular gannet colonies as well as puffins and great skuas (bonxies), Hermaness have seen a steady rise in visitor numbers over recent years prior to the pandemic.

VisitScotland’s Shetland development manager Steve Mathieson said it was important to improve facilities and visitor experience, particularly at a time when the tourism and hospitality industry is suffering.

“Due to Covid-19, there is evidence that a new, homegrown audience is discovering and enjoying Scotland’s more remote locations, such as Hermaness, which is fantastic.

“Improvement works like this are crucial to ensuring the NNR remains sustainable for years to come.

“Tourism is a force for good and if managed responsibly, sustains communities in every corner of Scotland, creates jobs, tackles depopulation and improves the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.”

NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Nature and culture are intrinsically linked in the beautiful Highlands and Islands.

“They are central to local economies and help maintain rural populations, jobs and skills, especially at a time when a green recovery from the pandemic is so important.”

A total of £2.6 million has been allocated to four projects in the Highlands and Islands through the fund.