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visitor centre sign
visitor centre sign

Strengthening Communities Since 2011

The Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust was established in 2011 to promote the development and strengthen the communities of Ardgay & District and Creich Community Council areas. Its key purpose is to work with and support community groups to maximise the facilities and services they can provide for the community as well as seeking inward investment in the area providing economic opportunities.

The Trust has been instrumental in leading on a number of projects including East Sutherland Energy Advice Service, Keep Active Together and the Food Stop. It has purchased the local Post Office, securing its future as a traditional stand-alone village post office and has plans to build three affordable homes. And the redevelopment of Ardgay village centre, with a new village square and the business barn is almost complete.

The fire

Its flagship project supported by the E.ON Rosehall Community Fund has been the redevelopment of the Falls of Shin Visitors Centre. In 2013, two unexpected events occurred in the Kyle of Sutherland area. Within just three weeks the community learned that Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel would not reopen and the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre burnt down.  Both events were catastrophic for the area as the venues were vital to the local economy, providing employment opportunities and attracting visitors to the area. Recognising the impact of the closure of both facilities the Trust acted quickly and brought together all the relevant agencies to make sure that immediate action was taken.  One of its decisions was to rebuild the Visitor Centre. The Trust established a Falls of Shin community project team to redevelop the Visitor Centre.

Immediately after the fire, the E.ON Rosehall Community Fund Panel was quick to support the community at this difficult time, and the Trust was given a £10K emergency award, allowing them to take proactive action to alleviate the effects of Falls of Shin closure.   This initial £10K helped the Trust develop projects that were of benefit to the community and gave it the flexibility to support other organisations bringing visitors to the area.

This initial award was perceived as a vote of confidence in the Trust, recognising it as a key anchor organisation in the area, validating its ideas and demonstrating it had the support of the local community.   It also demonstrated to other funders it had the backing of the community helping to leverage in the additional funding needed to make the project happen – in total the team secured funding of £1.4M.

An Inverness Building firm was awarded the contract for the rebuild.  A key stipulation of the contract was where possible any subcontractors/tradespeople utilised by the building firm should come from the local area, the firm was also encouraged to take on an apprentice from the area.  This has helped create a sense of ownership within the community with many of those involved in the build coming along to show off to friends and family how they have been involved.

Following the initial award from the E.ON Rosehall Community Fund, the Trust received a further award of £15K to help develop the signage, branding and interpretation for the Visitor Centre as the project came to fruition.

The Falls of Shin Visitor Centre reopened in May 2017 to much acclaim from both the community and further afield. It offers visitors the opportunity to see wild salmon leap the beautiful Falls of Shin, walk in the adjacent woodland walks created by Forestry Commission Scotland and visit the new café/restaurant or enjoy a picnic. There is a play area for children and crazy golf.   In the four months since opening 70,000 visitors have used the facility, and it has hosted its first wedding and Chamber of Commerce Breakfast meeting.

The Visitor Centre employs 13 members of staff some of whom will be seasonal, making it a key contributor to the economic success of the area.

The build may be finished but this is just the start of a new chapter in the Falls of Shin. There are plans to develop the Visitor Centre further, creating new activities.

The project is a key example of how a Community Benefit Fund can support strategic projects which to benefits the whole community, to achieve a vibrant, thriving community that people are proud to be part of.