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January 6, 2010

Local trust leads tourism strategy

The Aberdeenshire town of Huntly has just joined a select group of Scottish towns by becoming the third to be awarded Walkers are Welcome status. The local development trust are coordinating the town’s tourism and marketing strategy and will soon be promoting a brand new bunkhouse facility for backpackers

Construction on a £200,000 project, which is due to start at Huntly will help step up tourism in the town and provide a major boost to the local economy, it is claimed.

Work has begun on converting outbuildings behind the Gordon Arms Hotel into accommodation for backpackers.

Hotelier David Sherriffs said: “The potential spin-off to the local area is estimated at upwards of £300,000 a year.”
Huntly architects Acanthus have drawn up plans for the transformation of storerooms behind the hotel into accommodation containing 18 bunks.

The scheme would have a drying room, kitchen area, showers and toilets, while retaining the traditional look of the B-listed buildings.

Mr Sherriffs said: “The project will not only meet a need for this type of accommodation – there is no similar provision for travellers between Aberdeen and Elgin – but the conversion of the site at the heart of the town will provide a spin-off to other businesses in the town. It will be a big boon to Huntly generally.”

Access to the place, to be named the Highlander Bunkhouse, will lead directly from The Square.

The venture recently received £200,000 of funding through the national Town Centre Regeneration Fund, which recognised its potential wider benefits to the community through attracting more visitors.

Mr Sherriffs said: “The scheme also dovetails beautifully, with Huntly having just been awarded Walkers Are Welcome status.”

He anticipates not only backpackers but also golfers and people taking part in local arts projects making use of the bunkhouse which is due for completion by March.

Huntly is the third Scottish town to gain Walkers Are Welcome recognition, following Moffat and Tomintoul. Communities have to show not only a range of attractions to walkers, but support the status by maintaining facilities.

Huntly Development Trust project leader for tourism and marketing Carolina Kenny said: “We gathered more than 400 signatures within the community.”

Businesses in Huntly are already displaying Walkers Are Welcome stickers, while this year’s town brochures and website will feature information for walkers on public transport and trails.