A £22 MILLION fund has supported 13 new projects to help the outstanding natural beauty of the Highlands and Islands stand out to visitors.

NatureScot’s Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund aims to enhance experiences at Scottish tourism sites.

The projects include new visitor centres, virtual reality tours of archaeological sites and integration of more Gaelic language and culture into tourist sites.

The National: The new Spirit of Highlands and Islands project will help share stories about Highlands and Islands people, places and communitiesThe new Spirit of Highlands and Islands project will help share stories about Highlands and Islands people, places and communities (Image: HLH_Ewen Weatherspoon)

The Scottish Government's European Regional Development programme provided £8.2m towards the scheme, with other funding sources bringing the total amount to more than £22m. 

Eileen Stuart, deputy director of NatureScot, hailed the fund at an event at Great Glen House.

She said: “The NCHF programme has been a resounding success.

“It’s been a wonderful journey seeing these 13 projects come to life, bringing sometimes overlooked corners of Scotland to the forefront and benefiting rural communities.”

New visitor centres at Dundreggan and Corrieshalloch Gorge, renovations of museums at Strathnaver and Kilmartin and improved access to tourist trails in Skye have been funded.

Meanwhile, the Hebrides will receive a new series of virtual reality tours for archeological sites, and Archaeology Scotland will launch a new "Adopt-a-Monument" scheme to help preserve 10 heritage sites in Ardnamurchan.

The National: Ardnamurchan will see a new 'Adopt-a-Monument' program help preserve 10 heritage sitesArdnamurchan will see a new 'Adopt-a-Monument' program help preserve 10 heritage sites (Image: Ardnamurchan - Archaelogy Scotland project, the Real Wild West - free use picture)

Cultural experiences of people in the Highlands and Islands and their communities are being promoted through an online story project, Spirit of the Highlands and Islands.

VisitScotland’s destination development director Chris Taylor said: “Investing in infrastructure projects such as these creates a long lasting legacy of high-quality visitor experiences in the Highlands and Islands.

“Investment in 13 projects – spread geographically across the Highlands and Islands – is an amazing achievement and really brings our unique nature, scenery and culture to the fore.”

The funding will help support jobs, services and local economies in dozens of Highlands and Islands communities.

NatureScot honoured the projects in an event at the body’s headquarters in Inverness, where Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s partnerships and development manager Brian Ó hEadhra celebrated the integration of Gaelic language and culture into the projects.

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“The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund has helped ensure that the Gaelic language and culture is integrated into these projects and the visitor experience, which is a fantastic legacy for the Highlands and Islands.

“From the Gaelic signage at Dundreggan rewilding centre to the Gaelic interpretation in the Uist Virtual Archaeology Project, the NCHF has provided important opportunities to highlight and celebrate the richness and diversity of Gaelic culture in Scotland.”