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January 28, 2020

Mapping the wealth

For many people, and particularly communities along its length, the North Coast 500 has been a double-edged sword. For some time now, the route has featured in most self respecting travel writing bucket lists with the result that this hitherto hidden gem of a road trip is now regularly log-jammed with motorhomes and drivers unfamiliar with passing-place protocol. But visitors bring much needed spending power and some of these remote communities have succeeded in tapping it. Scottish Land Commission has produced a map highlighting where this has happened in the hope that others will follow suit. 

Norette Ferns

An interactive map has been created to encourage community groups to think about how they can tap into the potential of the North Coast 500 tourist route.

The Scottish Land Commission funded an internship, to help support the North Highland Initiative’s (NHI) next action to encourage community projects that will build on the increased numbers of visitors and interest in the North Coast 500 area.

The intern, Sam MacKinnon, used his time at the Scottish Land Commission to create an interactive map that identifies land owned and manged for non-profit purposes in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire to help support local community ventures.

The map will now be made widely available throughout the Highlands to encourage local groups to think about what they might be able to create, who they could work with and how to tap into the international reputation of the North Coast 500.

Shona Glenn, Head of Policy at Scottish Land Commission said:

“The Land Commission’s work programme covers a wide range of issues – everything from land value tax to community ownership – and as part of that we’re looking to the academic community in Scotland to help us gather evidence, spark debate and develop new approaches, to make the most of Scotland’s land.

“Working with Sam to create this new map, has allowed us to build a valuable new relationship with a young and talented researcher and also helped the NHI in providing a starting point for communities interested in developing tourism-based initiatives.”

Sam MacKinnon, who is from Harris but now living in Glasgow said:

“The internship with the Commission has provided invaluable experience enabling me to apply my skills in strategic studies to address real life situations.

“Having grown up on Harris, I am very aware that one of these is the demographic decline of the Highlands and Islands.

“With visitors coming to the Highlands to explore the popular driving route, it has been great to create a resource that will hopefully help the region continue to build and benefit, on that success.”

David Whiteford, Chair of NHI commented:

“This map provides a valuable tool to communities in the North Highlands to identify potential opportunities to build on the success of the NC500 and develop a sustainable infrastructure and employment opportunities around the route.”

The map is intended to provide a starting point for communities interested in developing tourism based initiatives along the NC500 route by helping them either to identify public assets that might be available for transfer or partners who may be interested in a collaborative project.

The map includes all land and other assets owned by community groups, public agencies and charities operating in the North Highlands region. It can be used to see what assets may be available, where, who owns them, and other information such as the area it covers.

The maps can be accessed via this link: