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BBC Radio Scotland highlights the success of the OATS’ Fairy Pools Car Park development project

On Saturday 01 June 2024 BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors Programme featured the Fairy Pools car park and off-grid toilet facility development project on Skye.

The project was a landlord/tenant partnership between the Minginish Community Association, the local community volunteer organisation, and OATS that developed a workable solution to construct onsite parking and toilet facilities at the Fairy Pools that could safely accommodate the 200,000 visitors that head to the iconic Fairy Pools every year.

Mark Stephen, the presenter of Out of Doors, spent some time at the Fairy Pools two weeks ago and chatted to Ali Campbell, Fairy Pools Facility Manager, Cameron Campbell, Fairy Pools Facility Supervisor, and Megan Campbell, Seasonal Car Park Operative, together with several visitors, to find out more about this tourism project success story on Skye.

Please listen here: The feature starts at about 34 minutes and 22 seconds in from the start of the programme.

The problem
An unsustainable 82,000 people visited the Fairy Pools in 2015, with more than 180,000 people recorded in 2019. The narrow single-track access road was regularly blocked with parked cars, verges were damaged and local residents, businesses and emergency services had to deal with significant disruption regularly. The lack of infrastructure and onsite facilities also led to path and habitat degradation and litter and human waste management issues.

Minginish Community Association were driven to solve the congestion issues for residents and local businesses. They were also keen to reduce the environmental impact, generate local employment, and create a better experience for those visiting the Fairy Pools.

The solution
MCHA used the Community Asset Transfer scheme to acquire the land from Forestry and Land Scotland, the first asset transfer under Land Reform Legislation. The car park site was then leased to OATS, who had the experience, expertise and the capacity to deliver the scheme and handle the liabilities, for 20 years, on condition that they construct, operate and maintain the car park and toilets.

The results

  • Onsite parking spaces increased from 30 to 140. However, the recent tarmacing of the site has increased this number to 177.
    The addition of an off-grid toilet facility designed to meet the needs of at least 200,000 visitors a year.
  • The operating surplus is being re-invested as seed-corn funding for access and conservation work including for the new Skye Iconic Sites Project
  • Community rent for the car park is being used for a general community grant scheme, a hardship fund for anyone in financial difficulty and a community housing project (in the initial stages of development) to allow more of our young people and families to stay in our community.
  • The recent Skye Iconic Sites Project, another OATS-managed project, has also helped to address the lack of tourist infrastructure and co-ordinated interpretation on the Isle of Skye, making improvements to the quality of the visitor experience for a wider and more inclusive range of people at three of its most iconic and busiest sites – the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing and the Fairy Pools. This has been achieved through the development of access infrastructure – paths, bridges, and viewpoints; path and habitat restoration and rehabilitation; and a programme of co-ordinated interpretation through information points and signage, together with promotion, marketing and joined-up thinking within the wider context of Skye as a visitor destination.