Improved facilities at two popular East Lothian coastal locations have been unveiled ahead of the busy summer season.
Work to refurbish the toilet facilities, improve access and introduce signage and visitor information has been carried out at Longniddry Bents and Gullane Bents.
East Lothian Council received £412,830 funding from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund Round Two and Round Three to carry out the changes to the popular beach sites. Accessibility has been a key focus for both projects, with a changing places toilet included in the redesign of both sites, as well as improvements to the footpaths and viewing area and an emphasis on cycling and public transport at Gullane Bents.
Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund was created to make infrastructure improvements in rural areas experiencing high visitor numbers, for the benefit of both visitors and the wider community.
The fund aims to reduce the impact of visitor numbers on local communities and facilities and create a more collaborative and sustainable approach to infrastructure provision and long-term maintenance of local facilities for the benefit of communities.
Since the reopening of outdoor spaces during the pandemic, East Lothian has attracted an additional one million visitors to its coastline. In order to help manage visitors across the region, a COVID-19 Multi Agency Open Space Group was created to look both strategically and logistically at issues along the coast and other popular inland locations.
East Lothian Council secured a further £30,000 towards the development of an East Lothian Visitor Management Plan in 2021. Most recently, two key projects identified through the plan have been awarded an additional 100% feasibility funding totalling £30,208 to look at improvements to visitor facilities at Yellowcraig as well as potential sites across East Lothian for the creation of an Aire network for camper vans and mobile homes.
Visit East Lothian has launched a new tool to help visitors and residents enjoy its stunning coastline and avoid overcrowding and queues. The innovative, intuitive and practical Visit East Lothian App uses sensor data captured live from eleven of East Lothian Council’s coastal carparks, allowing users to check the ‘busyness’ of these areas before setting out or while travelling to the destination.
The app has a traffic light system to help visitors and residents avoid busy hotspots. Users simply search for their preferred parking location – green means quiet, amber means getting busy and red means very busy. It is also a handy guide to the destination. Users can search for places to eat and drink, things to see and do, as well as towns and villages to visit to complete their day. Those planning a longer trip can search from the wide variety of accommodation in the area.
Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Provost and Cabinet Spokesperson for Environment, Economic Development and Tourism said: “East Lothian’s stunning coast and countryside is the perfect place to visit this summer, for visitors and local people alike. The new toilet facilities are a tremendous enhancement to the offering at both Longniddry and Gullane Bents, which I’m sure will be greatly appreciated by families spending time on our glorious beaches as well as many others including cyclists and users of the John Muir Way. We were very grateful for the support from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which has helped to deliver these fantastic new facilities.
“In the last few months, we have launched our new Visit East Lothian website together with the recent addition of the Visit East Lothian App, which helps users check how busy coastal car parks are as well as containing handy information about the area. These are really positive developments which, as we seek to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and boost the local economy, are paramount in helping to promote our ‘Stay Safe, Support Local, Love East Lothian’ message.
“With the school summer holidays set to get underway, it’s a really exciting time for tourism in East Lothian. With world-class sporting, cultural and other fantastic events taking place, there is plenty for visitors to experience – as well as taking in some of our many fabulous attractions, food and drink and hard-working local business.”
VisitScotland Director of Industry and Destination Development, Rob Dickson, said: “The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund can make a real difference to sites across Scotland which have experienced a large volume of visitors and the impact that can have on communities.
“These additional facilities will help create a much-improved experience for visitors and help alleviate the pressure on infrastructure and help ensure Longniddry Bents and Gullane Bents remain sustainable visitor destinations for years to come.
“As the summer holidays approach, we can all play our part in being responsible visitors. We ask everyone to be respectful and responsible when visiting, looking after our natural landscape and leaving no trace of their visit. Tourism is a force for good. It creates jobs, sustains communities and contributes significantly to the economy.”