Tourism in the North-West Highlands has been given a boost this week with the awarding of £66000 to The Achiltibuie Garden to help build its new visitor centre in Achiltibuie, Wester Ross. The award has been made by the Scottish Government as part of the latest round of funding from the Rural Priorities scheme within the Scottish Rural Development Programme. The new single-storey timber building, designed by local architect Allan Graham, includes a café and shop and will provide a much-needed boost to tourism in this remote area when it opens later this year, as well as safeguarding three existing jobs and creating several more over the next few years. Julie Edwards, marketing director of the business said: ‘We’re delighted to have been awarded this grant. The economy of Achiltibuie, Coigach and the Ullapool area depends very much on attracting tourists and our new visitor centre will make a significant contribution to this. We are also very grateful for all the help and support given to us by our local community and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their messages of congratulation.’
The building is part of a larger project which started in 2008 with the construction of a custom-made Keder greenhouse. This is powered using micro-renewables and includes a rainwater collection system to provide water for a range of plants grown in both hydroponic and soil-based systems. The new building will also use rainwater harvesting and wind-generated electricity and will feature a range of measures aimed at contributing to the company’s ethos of minimising its environmental impact as much as possible.
Other rural businesses will also benefit from this award as local materials will be used in its construction, including straw bale insulation, and the work will be carried out by local tradesmen. An application for detailed planning consent has recently been submitted to Highland Council and it is hoped that construction can begin as soon as all the necessary consents have been obtained.
The Achiltibuie Garden is based in Achiltibuie, Wester Ross, part of the North-West Highlands Geopark. There are several strands to the business which at the moment concentrates on its mail order element, supplying a range of hydroponics growing kits. These range from those suitable for growing herbs on a windowsill to custom-designed systems for domestic greenhouses. There is a loyal and well-established customer base from when the business of The Achiltibuie Hydroponicum was taken over in early 2007 by three of its employees: Julie Edwards, Alison Graham and Diana Wilding. They then chose the name The Achiltibuie Garden to reflect a wider range of activities from those carried out by the old Hydroponicum. In addition to the mail order, The Achiltibuie Garden grows and sells a range of fresh produce and is currently developing outdoor growing spaces on its site in Achiltibuie. The visitor centre is the next stage in the company’s development and it is hoped that it will be ready to welcome visitors later this year.