New facilities installed to improve visitor experience in Mallaig

Mallaig toilets

New high-quality toilet facilities to help improve the provision for motorhomes overnighting in Mallaig are one step closer following installation of the building in the town.

The installation of the modern eco-friendly toilet and shower facilities on the approach to the village at West Bay car park, is part of a project to provide new toilet and motorhome servicing facilities along the stretch of the western coast of Lochaber at Traig Beach and Mallaig.

The application was submitted by The Road to the Isles Facilities Group, through the Highland Council, in round one of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).

Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the RTIF was created to improve the quality of the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that have faced pressure on their infrastructure due to this increase in visitor numbers.

It aims to reduce the impact of visitor numbers on local communities and facilities and create a more collaborative and sustainable approach to infrastructure provision and long-term maintenance of local facilities for the benefit of communities, when it is safe to welcome back visitors.

The dilapidated Traigh beach toilets, which had been derelict for many years, were demolished last year and the new facility, with two fully-accessible composting toilets, installed in September 2020 and now open to the public.

The new facility in Mallaig will now be fitted out and waste disposal facilities for campervans and motorhomes incorporated. It is hoped that visitors will be able to use the new facilities in time for the summer season.

Mallaig and Arisaig have long been popular tourist destinations, making a significant contribution to the local economy of west Lochaber and The Road to the Isles, generating employment and business opportunities for local people.

Visitor numbers to Highland in general have been increasing in recent years, particularly during 2020 at the height of the covid-19 pandemic when local domestic travel was encouraged. Whilst this is welcome, it can also have a negative impact on local infrastructure and services.

A significant decrease in the cost of ferry travel to Skye and the Small Isles through the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme, as well as an enhanced service from Mallaig to South Uist, has brought additional visitors to this area and, in particular, more wild campers and motorhome users.

This project aims to address a number of issues by providing two new facilities to cater for the increasing numbers of motorhomes staying overnight. Once fully fit out, Mallaig will have a toilet facility, a chemical waste unit, an accessible toilet and shower.

Councillor Gordon Adam, Chair of Highland Council’s Tourism Committee, said: “This is a much-needed facility in a part of Scotland which found itself under severe pressure last summer. All the indications are that there will be a similar number of visitors to the Highlands this year once covid-19 restrictions are eased.

“So, it is especially welcome that this facility will hopefully be fully open by the time the visitors – and their campervans – return in force in the coming months. Well done and many thanks to the Road to the Isle Facilities Group for all their work on this important project.” 

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “It is great to see the project reaching this exciting milestone and once complete, I am sure the new facility will be a very welcome addition and make a big difference to the town.

“This project demonstrates how RTIF can make a real difference to communities who have experienced a large volume of visitors and the impact that can have. These facilities will help alleviate the pressure on the infrastructure of the local area, as well as the local environment.

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

Stuart Griffin, Chair of the Road to the Isles Facilities Group SCIO, said: “It's great to see the new public toilet and motorhome service point arrive in Mallaig. It's been a long process, longer than we thought, but very satisfying now we can see it in place. We will have it open before visitors are permitted to return to our communities and we hope its use will reduce the impact of what is expected to be a busy season. 

“We are reversing the decline in public visitor facilities the Road to the Isles has experienced over the past 20 years, and along with our other toilet project at Traigh beach, which was completed in September, and new projects looking at managing parking at various beaches, we hope we can create a pleasing experience for visitors whilst considering the needs of the communities."

The project has cost £446,012, with RTIF money covering £300,000 and Highland Leader Programme providing match funding.

Last month, it was announced that 13 popular tourist sites across Scotland were to receive just over £3m in funding for projects to enhance the visitor experience, in round three of RTIF.

For more information on RTIF, please visit Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

11 Feb 2021