Weekly update, 10th August

Tourism, Food & Drink

There has been further excellent media coverage this week of the North Coast 500 route following triple cycling world record holder Mark Beaumont’s amazing non-stop circumnavigation of the route. We watched him flash past us in Thurso on Tuesday morning on his way to completing the journey in 38 hours! As recently reported the route has been voted one of the world’s top six tourist drives. More at www.northcoast500.com and on the project’s Facebook page, which this week reached 10,000 “likes” https://www.facebook.com/northcoast500 The record-setting journey is covered in this blog from photographer Johny Cook at  http://www.johnycook.com/blog/markbeaumont 

Scrabster harbour this week had its third cruise ship arrival in three weeks, with Sunday’s arrival of the 450 passenger capacity “Saga Pearl II”. Several hundred passengers were aboard, and made shore excursions to the Castle of Mey and John O’Groats as well as to Caithness Horizons. The port is expected to welcome its penultimate ship of the season this weekend with the arrival of the larger “Adonia”.

The latest phase of work under the “Flows to the Future” programme has been announced, with Thurso’s O’Brien Construction winning the contract to build a £1.9M Field Centre at Forsinard. The Centre will transform the ability of the project’s partners RSPB, SNH and the Environmental Research Institute to develop and promote Peatlands science research centre of excellence, drawing visitors and users from the UK and abroad. The news follows the opening in June of the strikingly-designed Peatlands Observatory at Forsinard, which gives visitors a unique perspective on the internationally-important “dubh lochan” network in the area. More on the £9.5M programme is at http://flowstothefuture.com/

Enabling Activities

Good to hear further news this week from CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) about ongoing rollout of Next Generation (superfast) broadband in the north, with more than 10,000 homes and businesses in Caithness/ north Sutherland now able to access superfast fibre broadband. Over the next six months nearly 900 premises in the villages of Bettyhill, Dunbeath, Keiss, Melvich and Reay are set to see local fibre networks built, joining Castletown, Halkirk, Lybster, Thrumster, Thurso and Wick where fibre based broadband is already available to order. The building work announced three months ago in Watten continues. In addition, following a re-modelling of the roll-out plans, HIE is confirming that the village of John O’Groats, which had been under evaluation, will see some fibre broadband installed in the 2016 programme. Rollout of superfast broadband is one of the key enabling projects on the CNSRP Programme, and we will be meeting HIE’s Digital Team next week to discuss progress in the area. More at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/10-000-caithness-homes-and-businesses-have-access-to-new-broadband-networks.html#sthash.ol9R5IrW.dpbs

Communications:

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

  • The new edition of Dounreay news has been published, with a range of articles including two on projects on the CNSRP Programme as well as others on skills and heritage projects being supported by Dounreay staff. I helped to provide one of a regular series of articles on CNSRP projects – this issue’s being on the very timely and successful secondment of Shona Kirk from Cavendish Nuclear to Wick Harbour Authority to support the ambitious project that sits on the CNSRP Programme. I was also delighted to be asked to comment on the NDA’s impact on socio-economic issues over the past 10 years since NDA’s inception. http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/File/Dounreay%20News/August_2015.pdf
  • Good digital connectivity in the north (as mentioned in Enabling Activities above) was one of the examples I gave to the John O’Groat Journal this week as part of a piece disagreeing with comments made on the BBC “Dragon’s Den” programme by its panellists that suggested the north of Scotland might not be a good place to establish a big business. The comments came as the partners in Cocoa Mountain of Durness pitched their business idea. A shorter version of the full piece by Will Clark is at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Dragons-brand-far-north-diabolical-place-to-set-up-business-10082015.htm