The Western Isles need better basic facilities if visitors are to get the best out of their holiday, according to one of the Lewis’s regular tour guides.
Guide Maggie Smith of Lochs has made the call after leading a party of American tourists through a number of disappointments on Sunday (August 18th) during a tour to the Butt of Lewis. Her experiences were, she said, all too common.
Posting on Facebook after the tour, she showed one of the reasons for her concern. She said: “This picture was taken from the ‘car park’ at the Butt of Lewis, which was empty due to the huge puddle bang in the middle of the access. Another two coach companies decided not to brave the puddle – they parked on the road and their passengers walked up to the Butt.
“The toilets at Port of Ness were locked – this facility has been out of use several times in recent weeks and needs to be developed to meet the needs of all visitors. Fortunately Borve House stepped up, providing much-needed facilities and refusing any recompense.”
Yesterday (Monday) Maggie told welovestornoway.com that her plea on Facebook has followed numerous attempts to get her voice heard where tourism development is concerned.
She said; “I have reported the huge puddle at the Butt of Lewis to several people at the council over six weeks and nothing has been done.
“The future for tourism in the islands looks great and lots of people have ideas for initiatives and experiences, but there’s no-one pulling together the ideas to meet the needs of tourists. We need to act now, because with the big port development coming there’s going to be a great need for infrastructure.”
Rob Mackinnon, chief executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism said: “Over the past couple of years there has been a lot of publicity, driven by the experience of Skye, on the growing number of visitors and the way in which the infrastructure which serves them is being squeezed.
“These are the problems of success. We are getting more people coming here and that does bring challenges.
“But our evidence here in the Outer Hebrides is that, where facilities are lacking, our enthusiastic and passionate guides feel it more strongly than most visitors do. People delivering the experience are very concerned about what people think, but those same people go away saying ‘Wow! What an adventure!’
“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar co-ordinated applications to the rural tourism infrastructure fund and have been successful in attracting funding. It won’t solve everything, but it does mean there are improvements in the pipeline.”
The Scottish Government fund awarded £243,000 to Western Isles projects which, in the first round, will include camper van facilities, bus and car parking and scenic laybys, among other improvements.
Picture shows the Butt of Lewis car park on Sunday (Maggie Smith).