Tourist information and Urquhart Castle

By | Category: Travel news

part of the ruins of Urquhart Castle with Loch Ness behind it

Tonight is when a public meeting has been called at Glenurquhart Public Hall to discuss the possible takeover of the assets or land of Urquhart Castle Visitor Centre, the tourist information centre (on council land and leased to Visit Scotland) and some land connected to Loch Ness Homes Parkland.

The purpose behind the takeover is to generate funds for the local community, as opposed (I would guess) funds going back to Historic Environment Scotland and the local council.

To put this into context, the castle – which stands on the banks of Loch Ness – attracts about 487,000 visitors a year according to the latest figures and is one of HES’s most popular attractions. Everyone knows the tourist potential of Loch Ness so why would HES relinquish ownership/guardianship to a community organisation when about a sixth of its entry fee income comes from this one site?

What is it that has made a community decide to take on the financial liabilities of owning it? It obviously thinks that it can manage the site just as well as if not better than HES and that the financial injection (£2.69 million from entrance fees is one estimation) into the community will be significant. But there are pitfalls. As the heritage guardian in Scotland, HES might impose conditions on upkeep and site usage that could prove to be onerous? Costs for maintaining mediaeval castles don’t run cheaply and specialist architects and builders don’t grow on trees.

The body behind the purchase is called GURCA (Glenurquhart Rural Community Association) and they will need to raise a lot of money – millions – in order to obtain the three.

GURCA is not alone in thinking that it can run a local heritage site better than the national body tasked with the task. Such doubts are not confined to Scotland and at least one community council in Wales has discussed taking over the management of a site felt by locals to be badly managed.

This is why people outside the vicinity of Loch Ness will be watching what happens with Urquhart Castle and the visitor centre. If successful expect to see more communities look to running their own heritage sites.

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