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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 24/02/2023

Two projects to improve the visitor experience in Aberdeenshire locations which were developed through Rural Tourism Infrastructure Funding (RTIF) have already brought benefit, according to feedback from visitors.

St Cyrus NNR (National Nature Reserve) and Newburgh Seal Watching Experience both successfully applied for funding, with St Cyrus receiving more than £261,000 and Newburgh being awarded almost £137,500. Aberdeenshire Council brought forward the projects in partnership with the local community and NatureScot.

To date, £18 million of grant funding has been awarded to 74 projects across rural Scotland, since its launch in 2018.

Positive impact for St Cyrus Nature Reserve

Visitor numbers at St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, near Montrose, increased dramatically in the decade running up to the pandemic, with the majority arriving by car to visit the spectacular beach and nature reserve, which is packed with birds and wildlife.

The successful RTIF project has seen a car park expansion and refurbishment of the public toilets – including an enhanced accessible changing space toilet with hoist and three gender-neutral cubicles. Two of these also have baby changing tables, and have a safe pedestrian outdoor welcome and gathering space.

There are now 81 parking bays comprising standard, accessible, horse trailer, coach, motorcycle and campervan / minibus bays; as well as 24 cycle stands, a chemical disposal point and an EV double charge point.

Improved visitor experience for Newburgh Seal Watching Experience

The aim of the Newburgh project was twofold - to improve the visitor experience by enhancing the facilities on the Newburgh side of the Ythan estuary; and putting measures in place to safeguard the grey seal haul-out on the northern shore.

Newburgh sees the largest haul out of grey seals in the UK, attracting a huge amount of visitors per year. Thousands of seals can be seen from the Newburgh (southern) side of the Ythan estuary, all year round and the introduction of these measures ensures that the adult and young seals have the peace and quiet they require to rest and moult.

Through RTIF funding, Newburgh Links car park was redesigned to provide 65 dedicated parking bays and a one-way system, substantially reducing congestion and improving the surrounding parking situation in general. The project also upgraded an existing onsite interpretation about the seals and the other wildlife of the Ythan Estuary.

It's proposed that a later phase of the project will include provision of an all-abilities path from the car park to a newly-created viewpoint.

Find out more about RTIF

RTIF is designed to support collaborative projects which focus on improving the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that are facing pressure on their infrastructure and communities as a result of visitor numbers. We manage the fund on behalf of Scottish Government, which established the fund. 

Find out more about RTIF funding, and who this is applicable for, on our dedicated page on

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