Construction set to begin on Glenfinnan Car Park to enhance the visitor experience for tourists and Harry Potter Fans
Work is set to begin on additional parking to cater for 100 cars, ten motorhomes and buses at the hugely popular Glenfinnan Viaduct tourist destination.
Glenfinnan already a popular destination for its historic associations with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rebellion, see’s large numbers visit the National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre and the associated Jacobite Monument every year.
The 2019 Visitor Attraction monitor shows 462,235 visitors to Glenfinnan. This compares with 187,437 in 2015 so an increase of 147% in 5 years
The current car park at Glenfinnan is experiencing over 2,000 visitors a day according to the National Trust of Scotland.
However, it is the featuring of the steam train crossing the viaduct as the “Hogwarts Express” in the Harry Potter series of films that has increased the numbers visiting, taking it to unsustainable levels which are causing major congestion and safety issues on the A830 trunk road which splits both sites.
In October 2018, The Highland Council in partnership with Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO secured £269,906 of funding from the first round of the Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund managed by VisitScotland.
The fund aims to support projects that focus on improving the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that have faced pressure on their infrastructure or negative impacts on communities due to the significant increases in visitor numbers.
The project is matched by £115,674 in LEADER funding which is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP). The fund aimed at promoting economic and community development within rural areas.
The project due to start on Monday 24 August over a 10-week period and is managed by the Highland Councils Project Design Unit and the principal contractor for the work is Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd.
Lochaber councillor Allan Henderson, commented on behalf of himself and the area's other elected members, Ben Thompson and Denis Rixson, saying: "We are delighted that this work is due to commence.
"This has been a monumental effort from a small community, overrun with problem parking, delivered by a small focused Facilities Group, in conjunction with the local landowner, who turned adversity into an opportunity to improve the visitor experience through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
"Glenfinnan has so much to offer for such a small constrained area through the National Trust visitor Centre, the iconic monument and viaduct coupled with the loch, the architecture and location of the church. It is a magnet for tourists who will soon be able to enjoy it for longer, with less hassle, through this project."
Chair of Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO, Fiona Gibson said: “Glenfinnan community is very excited that practical work on building this much needed car park is going ahead. We would like to thank Highland Council, VisitScotland, Scottish Government and LEADER for their support and we look forward to providing visitors a suitable place to leave their vehicles whilst visiting the area.”
Highland LEADER Programme Manager, Fiona Cameron said: “We were delighted to support this project. Whilst the thousands of annual visitors to the viaduct provide a significant boost to the local economy, we were made well aware of the practical challenges this presents to a small community like Glenfinnan. This car park will greatly help the local community, whilst also improving the visitor experience for those who come from all over the world to visit this iconic location. We would also commend the effort the community have put into raising funds for this project.”
VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director Chris Taylor said: “The Covid19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism and events industry and as we emerge from this crisis, our priority is to reset tourism in a responsible way, to help spread the benefits of tourism across Scotland and to extend the season.
"Glenfinnan Viaduct is a truly iconic location that continues to be a huge draw for visitors. This improvement work will create a better visitor experience for all and help ensure that it remains a must-visit destination for future generations of holidaymakers."
He added: "Working with Highland Council and the community of Glenfinnan has been really positive to make sure we are all joined up and able to deliver the best possible experience to visitors. The Highlands is known around the world for the warmth of our welcome and the friendliness of local people - it’s important we continue this as the industry opens up to visitors once more.”
In addition to the car park, The Highland Council in partnership with Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO also secured additional funding of £53,704 from round two of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund with a successful Crowd Funder to match, organised by the community for the final phase of the Glenfinnan Viaduct project. This project will see a new footbridge and path link the new car park to the existing path to the viaduct, preventing visitors having to walk on the main trunk road. Construction of this is due to start soon.