Planning for tourists – parking and Glenfinnan

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Glenfinnan viaduct

as Harry Potter fans may think of the area in Glenfinnan. But they need a arking area to see the view.

It surprises me sometimes how ill-prepared local government is for tourism. We all know that tourist attractions can spring up in the most unlikely places – and surely Orlando in Florida is one of the more unlikely geographic spots  – but in order to continue attracting tourists, money must be spent on non-profit-making things like toilets, green spaces, seating, ease of access through the tow or village and, of course, parking.

It is fine people saying that visitors should use public transport but there are too many places in our country that are attractive to visit but where public transport is few and far between. You won’t get more public transport without a demand and you won’t have a demand unless something attracts visitor. Consequently, many places rely on cars delivering visitors. But what happens if there is insufficient parking?

This is the situation confronting the people of Loch Shiel in the Highlands of Scotland where people also come to see the Glenfinnan viaduct.

People go to see the viaduct because it heavily features in the Harry Potter series of films. It is about a half hour journey from Fort William as you head west on the train which obviously travels over the viaduct and about forty minutes by car.  Of the nearly 400,000 people that travel there every year many use the car so they can see the Glenfinnan Monument, (which commemorates fallen Jacobites,) admire the viaduct and to relive their Harry Potter fantasies. The number of visitors, according to Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, grew by over 50% last year and there is no reason why the number shouldn’t continue to grow so where do these people park when they get there? Four years ago just 20,000 people visited the area. Therefore the council must have been aware of the huge increase that has happened over these few years.

Visitors park wherever they can which means that roads designed for occasional traffic get clogged, locals get annoyed and visitors complain. The local community council says a car park is needed and has land on which one could be created. But before it can go ahead it must have sufficient evidence of the problem so that it can request the money from the Scottish government. What that means is nothing will be in place for this summer.

Yet the problem has been growing for some time so the unanswered question must be why didn’t the local authority plan this earlier so that it was in place for this summer’s peak visitor season?

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