An ambitious scheme to bolster tourism in the North-east by turning the 90-mile route between Blairgowrie and Grantown into one of the most beautiful drives in Europe will reach a new milestone at the end of March.
The Snow Roads Scenic Scheme, driven by Cairngorms National Park Authority, will complete the upgrade of their third layby on March 30 with the competition winner of a landmark statue unveiled at Tomintoul Quarry following the success of viewpoints at Corgarff and the Devil’s Elbow at Glenshee.
The project to transform the laybys has tapped into the creative skills of some of Scotland’s newly-qualified landscape architects, such as John Kennedy who designed four cowled metal seats at Corgarff.
The next stage has been bolstered by a £245,000 grant from the Scottish Enterprise Destination Development Fund – with an additional £70,000 in partner support – as they search for a new project manager.
And with the North Coast 500 Highland route quickly becoming one of the most talked about road trips in the world, it’s hoped that the upgrades on the A93 and the A939 at the Cairngorms will follow on from that success.
Stuart Donaldson, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “Scotland is blessed with some of the most breath-taking scenery you will find anywhere in the world.
“The success of the North Coast 500 route is testament to that and, having grown up in Aberdeenshire and frequently driven through the Cairngorms, this area has incredible potential.
“The Cairngorms has already seen annual visitor numbers rise by 300,000 since the turn of the century and projects like this can increase that footfall.
“I recently met with Peter Crane, the Head of Visitor Services for Cairngorms National Park Authority, and was struck by how driven and determined he was to take this project to the next level.
“With his enthusiasm, the creativity of his team and the support of the Scottish Government and other key stakeholders we can drive tourists into the Cairngorms.”
Mr Crane added: “We have an outstanding route that is already driven by motorists, classic cars owners and cyclists with the unique status as the highest public road in Britain. We also have the infamous ‘Cock Bridge to Tomintoul’ section.
“The power of the new attractions allows us to really start promoting the route to show off the range of existing attractions such as Glenshee Ski Centre, Braemar Castle, Corgarff, Crathie and Balmoral, Bridge of Gairn, Lecht Ski Centre and the towns and villages along the way.
“The National Park designation has been really positive for tourism. It has increased visitors from 1.4 million in 2003 to 1.7 million in 2015.
“Most of this increase has been in Badenoch and Strathspey but this major new visitor attraction has the potential to quite literally drive more visitors to the eastern Cairngorms.
“It links to Aberdeenshire, Malt Whisky Trail and even North Coast 500 - the slow and scenic route north or south. It’s a hugely exciting project.”