THE “Hinterland effect” has boosted trade in Helensburgh, with thousands of visitors spending time in the town over the weekend.

Further augmented by recent good weather, traders reported “a real buzz” in the town, with some estimating trade is 15 per cent higher than the same weekend last year.

Restaurants are also busy – with Cara Nikolic, who runs three Helensburgh eateries, reporting a 30 per cent rise in trade over the weekend.

And the effect of the NVA festival, which launched on Friday evening, is set to continue, with a multi-million pound investment announced yesterday (Wednesday) to secure the future of the abandoned St Peter's Seminary, with the hopes of turning it into a unique arts venue and heritage destination.

The Heritage Lottery Fund and Creative Scotland have awarded £4.2m to NVA to carry out the restorations.

Helensburgh and Lomond’s Chamber of Commerce reported increased footfall in the town, saying although the weather played a part, there was “definitely an element of the Hinterland effect added in”.

A spokeswoman for the chamber said: “Colquhoun Square was particularly busy which pays testament to the effect of the CHORD redesign encouraging people to make use of the open space and plentiful seating.

“One restaurant and public house owner reported a particularly busy weekend across the board with one establishment some 15 per cent up on the same week last year.

"A B&B owner reported being busy with lots of Hinterland event goers and said that there had been a number of phone enquiries from other potential guests who were finding it difficult to find accommodation in the town.

“They also reported that their guests were enjoying the buzz in the restaurants in the evenings.”

The spokeswoman said the chamber was delighted at the news of investment in St Peter’s, saying it will only “enhance” Helensburgh and Lomond’s reputation as a place to go for cultural and historical events.

The good weather was also a factor for the weekend boost with higher footfall on the seafront, but the spokeswoman said it would “create a great impression” of Helensburgh, and would hopefully encourage some Hinterland visitors to come back in the future.

Cara Nikolic, owner of award-winning La Barca, Cattle & Creel, and the Riverbank, said they had seen a boost of 30 per cent from Friday to Tuesday compared to last year.

She said La Barca, on East Clyde Street, had been particularly busy - full every night from 5pm - which she attributed to its proximity to the pier, where shuttle buses take people to and from the event.

She added there has been “a great buzz” in the restaurants over Hinterland, and said with Easter weekend approaching it has been “a great week for business”.

Helensburgh Central councillor Vivien Dance said she had spoken to several traders who were “extremely pleased with extra business” as a result of Hinterland.

She said: “The majority of the people seem to be from outside the town. There were a lot of people who have travelled here especially for it.

“It was certainly attracting visitors from far and wide, who were spending money in Helensburgh. I thought the whole thing was magic.

“It has been really well organised, and it is great to have that on our doorstep.”

Talking about the funding which was announced to restore the Seminary, Cllr Dance said it would be a “real boost to Helensburgh”.

She said: “What I think is really important is it brings people down the A814 and in to Helensburgh.

“The problem is the A82 bypasses Helensburgh. Bringing people to Cardross in the future will be a tremendous boost to us.”

Hinterland was officially launched on Friday night at a reception in Helensburgh and Lomond’s Civic Centre on East Clyde Street, with culture secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP speaking at the event.

Angus Farquhar, Creative Director, at NVA said: “Hinterland is going brilliantly, and we couldn’t have asked for a better response to the work from audiences. Many people are experiencing the building for the first time and are blown away by its skeletal beauty. We have worked hard to make sure that the show does not take over the building, but draws out the detail of it and helps audiences to appreciate the beauty of the structure in its current state of semi ruination.

“We of course hoped that Hinterland would attract strong interest from the public, it’s such a key moment in the site’s past and future, and I think the fact that it sold out in advance is testament to the mysterious allure of the building and a wide-spread support for its future.”