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Forest tourism gets a boost

The famous Otter Pool

A PROJECT to refurbish the famous Otter Pool site in the Galloway Forest Park is now complete, timed to coincide with the reopening of the Raider's Road forest drive. The improvements were undertaken by Forestry and Land Scotland, funded through the VisitScotland-administered Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund and the National Lottery funded Galloway Glens Scheme. The improvements tackle maintenance and sustainability concerns on the Otter Pool site, also offering a much-improved visitor experience. The Raiders' Road Forest Drive in the Galloway Forest Park is a rare opportunity for everyone, irrespective of mobility or access issues, to visit one of the wildest part of South West Scotland - located in the centre of Galloway Forest Park, the Galloway Dark Sky Park and in the core of the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere. The Raiders' Road forest drive itself was immortalised in literature by S.R.Crockett in his book ‘The Raiders', a story of cattle rustling and border intrigue and is a huge draw for many people from Wigtownshire. The highlight of the scenic ten-mile drive is the‘Otter Pool site, where the Blackwater of Dee widens into an attractive series of shallow pools which are a popular attraction, both for residents and visitors to the area. The number of people visiting the Otter Pool has increased tenfold since it was established, now numbering more than 30,000 visitors per year. This makes it one of the most popular attractions in South West Scotland. Facilities at the site had struggled to cope with this high level of popularity. The toilet block was in a poor state, with increasing maintenance requirements. The paths on the site were not accessible to buggies and wheelchairs and there had been examples of informal fires being lit. Over the last year, a series of improvements have been delivered on the site to address these, including: • Complete refurbishment of the toilet block to leave a brand new, accessible facility which is much more welcoming to visitors and will reduce the maintenance issues being encountered • A new, accessible circular footpath around the Otter Pool site • Installation of new picnic benches. These works have been completed just in time to coincide with the reopening of the Raiders' Road Forest drive. The Raiders' Road is accessible from the A762, north of Mossdale or from the A712, west of Clatteringshaws. The overall project also included the installation of a chemical waste disposal point at the neighbouring Clatteringshaws Car Park, due for formal launch in the near future. Neil Murray, Delivery Manager with Forestry & Land Scotland's South Regional team said: “Since the Otter Pool Site originally opened, there has been a tenfold increase in visitor numbers. It had become a victim of its own success and struggled to cope but thanks to these improvements, the visitor experience has been very much enhanced and it is a site that shows the area at its best. "It's been a great partnership exercise, and everyone involved has helped to ensure that the Raiders' Road Forest Drive continues to be a rare opportunity for everyone to access and enjoy one of the wildest part of South West Scotland.” Ted Leeming, chair of the Galloway Glens Scheme, said: “The Otter Pool site is popular with visitors to Galloway but also well loved by local residents, with its location right in the centre of the Galloway Forest Park. We know the site has been struggling to handle the number of visitors in recent years and so I am delighted the Galloway Glens Scheme has been able to work in partnership with our friends at Forestry & Land Scotland to make these improvements. Paula Ward, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director (Scotland South), said: “This is a brilliant project that opens up the Otter Pools for all age groups as the facilities help with making the forests of Galloway Forest Park available to all. The Otter Pools are one of the region's flagship sites and are a key honey pot for the forest drive. The popularity of the site is only set to increase following surrounding initiatives such as the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme, activities of the Dark Sky Park and the recently aired BBC documentary ‘The Forest'. Our great outdoors continues to be an attraction for many visitors and one of Scotland's greatest tourism assets. Our natural resources are hugely important to communities and visitors alike and should be protected and respected. This improvement work will ensure a better visitor experience for all.” Fergus Ewing, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, overseeing the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, said: “I welcome the completion of this much needed infrastructure, which will benefit the local community as well as visitors to one of Dumfries and Galloways most popular areas. This shows the proactive efforts the Scottish Government is taking to aid tourism in our rural areas, and this is particularly important in our COVID recovery response.” The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) grant was secured by Dumfries & Galloway Council's Environment Team – also responsible for the recently advertised RTIF award towards Criffel path improvement work. The route has been reopened with a series of Covid-19 measures in place, including limiting use of the new toilets to one person at a time. Note the Raiders' Road is temporarily closed until Friday for resurfacing work.

<< back Published: 11 Aug 2020, 16:06

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