The Scottish Parliament is now in summer recess. Mid-Scotland and Fife is the second biggest geographical region after Highlands and Islands, so I welcome the opportunity recess brings to spend time in the region. A recent visit to Crieff highlighted to me the important role community groups and volunteers play in preserving our towns and villages but also in developing new ventures to boost tourism and local interest. The Old St Michaels Church yard, having previously been uncared for, overgrown and even proposed as a potential car park site, now offers a place of reflection off the high street with maintained gardens and currently one of the Crieff Cowches. Committed volunteers have created an asset for Crieff and demonstrates what can be achieved.
The Archaeology Trail at Strathearn Community Campus is another local initiative which aims to both celebrate local heritage and promote economic regeneration. The trail is a welcome addition to the area which involved local schools in its development as well as providing an education resource to connect the community with its history.
The Crieff Cowches are a welcome addition this summer. Situated around the area, they bring the work of local artists to the community, provide interest and fun on the art trail and will be auctioned off for charity at the end of the project which is run by the local bid. The project cleverly complements the Crieff in Leaf Coos celebrating the history of the tryst in Crieff.
Projects like these, which draw in support from local businesses and benefit from local expertise and connections, are key to stimulating ongoing interest for visitors and residents alike. With central funding for tourism always limited, finding ways of pooling local resources and securing financial backing are increasingly important.
I also appreciated a tour of the Glenturret distillery to hear about their plans following change in ownership. Whisky tourism remains a key aspect of Scotland’s appeal to visitors and the distillery is an important attraction for the area. Crieff has seen a shift away from traditional coach tours and increasing numbers of specialist visitors, coming specifically for the food and drink, or the history, or the wildlife. It’s important to respond to these changes and can offer experiences which appeal.
Securing Crieff and Strathearn on tourist trails is important and opportunities need to be grasped. The North Coast 500 show what can be achieved and the potential of cycle and walking based tourism could be promoted. What better way to explore our area of Scotland than to really slow your pace on two wheels or on foot. Marrying up sustainable environmentally-friendly travel with the natural beauty of Scotland could open up huge opportunities for many communities and businesses.
Crieff is facing challenges as tourists need change, but we are well placed to take advantage of opportunities. There is much to be positive about and that is reflected in the energy and commitment I have seen towards this special town.