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Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust

Facts & Figures

Organisation Name

Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust

People Benefiting

The local communities of Ardgay and Creich

Area Served

The local communities of Ardgay and Creich




Since 2011, KoSDT has been helping the local communities, organisations and businesses of Ardgay and Creich to access opportunities, whilst bringing in millions of pounds in investment.

The trust has run many ambitious projects that provide valuable employment and training opportunities while generating long-term sustainable benefits. Key examples include rebuilding the burned-down Falls of Shin tourist attraction, and buying out the Bonar Bridge Post Office when it faced closure. KoSDT also created “The Barn” in Ardgay, which acts as the trust’s central hub, as well as providing business units for other local initiatives.

The trust’s projects have had such a positive impact on the local community that it has become a much sought-after consultant to other groups.

Legal Form

Registered company and charity





Earned Income

(Unrestricted) £90,000


Bonar Bridge Post Office and house (including a garden area).

The Falls of Shin Visitor Centre, (Restaurant, Gift Shop, Playpark, Car park). The Barn and Drovers Square.

Value of assets


Roots & Links


When the construction of the A9’s Dornoch Bridge in 1991 saw the local area effectively bypassed, the Kyle of Sutherland Initiative, KoSDT’s predecessor, led a strong community fightback. KoSDT has since driven the regeneration of the bypassed villages and their surrounding areas – which has not been without its challenges.

In 2013, news arrived that Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel would not reopen and the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre burnt down. Both businesses were key to the local economy, attracting tourism and providing employment. The trust took action to rebuild the Visitor Centre, establishing a community project team to secure funding and bring the attraction back to life.

In-line with the Trust’s local ethos, the building firm awarded the contract for the Visitor Centre was required to take on a local apprentice to help create a sense of ownership within the community. By the end of the construction period, £240,000 had been injected into the local economy through sub contracts or wages of locally employed tradespeople. The Centre reopened in May 2017 to much acclaim from both the community and beyond. From May 2017 to September 2018, 181,859 people visited the salmon viewing platform.

In the Summer of 2018, KoSDT held a series of community engagement events in partnership with the Sutherland Community Partnership. Residents were encouraged to fill out a questionnaire and attend workshops to share their view on what they thought could best improve the community. Among the most common themes were issues and proposed solutions around transport, employment, tourism, housing, internet speeds, and mobile phone signal.


KoSDT later published a number of community plans including the Ardgay and District Community Plan, which incorporated the feedback of all local residents. The documents can be used as a key resource to identify the need for local projects, highlight funding proposals and ensure further community engagement.


The Trust is governed by a voluntary board of directors, all of whom live in the Kyle of Sutherland area.

Community Links

The Embo Trust, Kyle of Sutherland Apprenticeship Scheme, Heart of Sutherland Tourism, Ardgay and District Community Council, Creich Community Council, Sutherland Community Partnership, and many more

External Links

National Lottery Community Fund, Scottish Government, SSE Regional Fund, Climate Challenge Fund, Energy Action Scotland, Foundation Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, Beinn Tharsuinn Windfarm Community Limited, EON Rosehall Community Fund, SSE Achany Wind Farm Community Fund, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Hydro Electric Community Trust, Development Trusts Association Scotland, SSE Beatrice Fund


Physical Hub


The Barn, Drovers Square, Ardgay

Builds Local Capacity

  • Creates economic and employment opportunities for local communities, organisations and businesses

  • Rebuilt and leases the Falls of Shin visitor centre – a key employer and tourist magnet in the area

  • Redeveloped the Ardgay village centre

  • Bought and leases the Bonar Bridge Post Office, shop and house, which once faced closure

  • Provides working space for local businesses at The Barn


  • Offers consultancy support/project management services to other local groups

Delivers Services

Ardgay Regeneration

A project which saw the redevelopment of Ardgay village centre, with a new village square and a business barn on a once-derelict site. The Barn provides six business spaces with a fully-equipped kitchen and meeting room. It opened for business at the beginning of December 2017. Complete with call answering and general office services, the units are rented out to local businesses, as well as KoSDT.

Falls of Shin

The former Falls of Shin visitor centre, previously owned by Al Fayed and nicknamed “Harrods of the North”, was destroyed by a fire in May 2013. This left a huge hole in the local economy and, as a leading employer, resulted in a vast number of jobs being lost overnight. Following this event, and after several months of Stakeholder meetings, KoSDT applied to the Big Lottery Fund to submit for project funding to rebuild the popular attraction. The Trust then worked with the community, stakeholders, funders and design team (CH Architecture) to develop the project.

Falls of Shin was officially opened in its new form in May 2017 with a day of celebrations for the local community. KoSDT has since welcomed visitors from around the world and recreated employment opportunities at the visitor centre. A new café/restaurant, a play area for children and crazy golf facilities have also been installed. The Visitor Centre employs 13 staff members of staff, including seasonal workers, making it a key contributor to the economic success of the area.

Post Office

After securing a Scottish Land Fund grant, KoSDT purchased Bonar Bridge post office and sorting offices, securing its future as a traditional village post office. These facilities are used by several hundred people every week, some travelling 12 miles or more. The property includes an associated flat and garden.

Fair Food Transformation – The Community Food Stop Café

A café based within Bonar Bridge Community Hall which sells healthy and affordable food subsidised by the Scottish Government. The café opens every Monday from 11.30am-2.00pm to make nutritious food available to all. With a focus on social inclusion, those who normally have to eat alone can come along to the café to dine and socialise withothers. Payment is by donation with a menu price used as a guide, depending on the individual’s financial circumstances. Once a month, the Community Food Stop also provides an evening of food and entertainment, with payment also by donation.

Keep Active Together

Established in April 2015 to provide local health and wellbeing activities, the team provide a varied weekly programme of health and fitness opportunities. These include Ballroom/Latin dance classes, Latin Cardio Fit, Badminton and Yoga, as well as music practice and singing groups. One-off workshops and events such as family ceilidhs are also organised to bring the community together. Since the project started, members of the community have attended training courses and gained new skills, while others have had the opportunity to become employed as sessional workers. The community halls have also benefited financially from the project.

The Energy Advice Service

Following several energy advice/fuel poverty projects in previous years, this year-long project was funded until the end of March 2019 by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund. The service provided the whole of Sutherland with a home energy advice service to promote energy efficiency, and to help reduce fuel poverty and carbon emissions. The service won the Climate Challenge Fund award for best project in the ‘Energy’ category in December 2018 and was featured in a CCF film as an example of best practice. Unfortunately, the project did not receive funding to continue in 2019/20 so the service closed on the 31 March 2019.

Sutherland Community Engagement Project

Funded by the Aspiring Communities Fund, the Community Engagement Team at KoSDT assist local communities and the Sutherland Community Partnership in creating local development plans. Using a wide variety of methods to capture the views and opinions of local people, they evidence current needs of communities. By doing so, they are helping to bring communities and statutory agencies together to work on the issues that matter the most, whether through a better provision of public services or by supporting community-driven local developments.

Superfast Broadband in the Kyle of Sutherland

An initiative that followed a public meeting to inform people how they can benefit from a new superfast broadband service. Initially, changes in funding streams and the Government Broadband Strategy meant it wasn’t possible to take the initial project forward. However, thanks to a grant from the SSE Beatrice Fund, KoSDT will lease equipment to Highland Wireless, who will be delivering and managing the service across the area.

Project Management

KoSDT’s Contracts Team offer project management experience at competitive rates to other community organisations who perhaps don’t have the capacity or resources to manage the projects themselves. The Contracts team was contracted by the Embo Trust to project manage the development and refurbishment of ‘The Old School – Embo’, into a new community shop, cafe and hall. The building was delivered on time and within budget, and opened to the public in December 2018.

Develops/Manages Services

The Barn central hub, including several small business units

The Falls of Shin Visitor Centre

The Post Office, shop and house at Bonar Bridge

Main Achievements


Rebuilt the Falls of Shin tourist attraction, which is leased out to an external operator.

Bought out the Bonar Bridge Post Office when it faced closure.

Created “The Barn” in Ardgay, which acts as the trust’s central hub, as well as providing business units for other local initiatives.

Co-initiated the Sutherland Community Engagement Project

What Next

Biggest Challenge

Sourcing sustainable funding streams.

Being able to provide job security to staff when project funding is usually short term. (Around one year).

There is increasing competition for limited funds in a competitive market.


Has plans to build affordable housing in Bonar Bridge (subject to funding.



David Watson


Trust Manager

Address Line 1

The Barn, Drovers Square

Address Line 2





IV24 3A Sutherland





Website URL