A WALKING tourism bonanza could await businesses around Loch Ness after it emerged that work will start next month to complete the final section of a long-distance trail looping the famous waterway.
The work comes after £143,000 worth of funding was secured from the Scottish government and European Union. It will go towards construction of a 3.6km section of the South Loch Ness Trail between the Glendoe Hydro works entrance above Fort Augustus and Loch Tarff and is expected to be completed by late summer, weather permitting.
It will link up with the Great Glen Way which heads up the north side of the loch, creating a long-distance walking loop. It is also expected to generate further economic benefits for the area.
The funding application for the final section was made by tourism business improvement district VisitInvernessLochNess, whose chief executive Graeme Ambrose was delighted with the funding boost.
"We put a huge effort into the application and this award, along with the additional £50,000 contribution from Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and £60,000 from Highland Council will now ensure that we are able to proceed and complete this challenging section of trail," he said.
Mr Ambrose said although there were still improvements needed along the length of the South Loch Ness Trail, completion of the final major section would enable the link-up with the Great Glen Way and thus the creation of a Loch Ness 360 trail.
He expected the marketing opportunities arising from the venture – both as a long distance walking route and for events – to deliver major economic impacts not only to the communities on the south side of the loch but also the wider area.
Morag Cameron, owner of Morag’s Tearoom at Foyers and chairwoman of the South Loch Ness Tourist Group, described it as "fantastic news".
"We have strongly supported the development of the trail by VisitInvernessLochNess over the years and now the news that this section is finally to be constructed will, we are sure, result in more walkers to not only our business and others in the village but too businesses all round Loch Ness," she said.
Mike Seaton, SSE’s director of development, said his organisation was delighted to have played an instrumental role in bringing the South Loch Ness trail project to fruition.
"SSE originally helped the project through works associated with Stronelairg wind farm by delivering £570,000 worth of path construction on a significant section of the path from Fort Augustus to Glendoe," he said.
"When we found out there was a need for additional funding for the final section we were pleased to have been able to help close the funding gap by gifting £50,000 to the project.
"The South Loch Ness Trail is a fantastic project and will leave a lasting legacy for the local community and visitors to the area. We are committed to working positively with our tourism partners in the Highlands and we are excited to see the path completed and people using it for many years to come."
Chris Taylor, regional partnerships director at VisitScotland, said the creation of a Loch Ness 360 trail would be a huge boost to tourism in the area.
"To be able to bike or walk all of the way around Loch Ness presents businesses with the opportunity to engage with visitors in new and innovative ways while spreading the economic benefit across the region," he said.
"We look forward to working with VisitInvernessLochNess to promote this exciting new addition to the Highlands."The Inverness Courier20/01/2018