THE development of new tourism opportunities in two villages near Helensburgh could help reinforce the areas as “gateways” within Scotland’s first national park, according to a new report.

Arrochar and Tarbet have been identified as prime locations for investment in sustainable tourism in a draft document released by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

As part of the authority’s plans to promote a green post-Covid recovery, the lochside villages are highlighted as key areas in which greener tourism opportunities – such as cycling, high quality paddle sports, long-distance walking and open water swimming – could be developed over the next three decades.

The report states: “Arrochar, Tarbet, Balloch, and Callander are locations where new strategic tourism development opportunities are currently encouraged.

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“Within the countryside, the focus is on improving the visitor experience of the National Park through provision of high quality recreation and access opportunities including a network of paths, visitor facilities and infrastructure.

“Development in these areas will assist in establishing and reinforcing the character and role of these places as visitor destinations and gateways within the National Park.

“Significant opportunity remains to encourage the tourism offer to move towards developing a stronger theme around sustainable and lower impact tourism and make more of the park’s rich wildlife, landscapes and the wide range of recreation activities that attract longer staying visitors.

“Greener tourism could be a vital way to support the tourism sector as part of a post-Covid green recovery where there is likely to be an increasing focus on the domestic tourism market which we are keen to support.

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“Creative use of publicly owned and managed sites can help provide more visitor services and activities.”

The indicative regional spacial strategy (iRSS), being drafted by every planning authority in the country as part of the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4 preparation process, also outlines proposals to create integrated travel hubs at Balloch and Callander, to improve access to the national park and encourage its use as a national resource to benefit health and wellbeing.

The report adds: “There are a number of important walking routes which go through the National Park. One of these is the West Highland Way which is an important attraction for visitors with 40,000+ walkers completing the route every year and the same number again enjoy sections as shorter single day experiences.

“In addition to the West Highland Way, a further six of Scotland’s ‘Great Trails’ (John Muir Way; Three Loch Way; Great Trossachs Path; Loch Lomond and Cowal Way; the Rob Roy Way; and the Pilgrims Way) pass through the National Park boundaries.

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“This provides a further option for walkers to gain exposure to some of the more remote areas within the National Park and are an important part of the active tourism product all of which contribute to the National Walking and Cycling Network.

“However, opportunities exist to enhance the National Walking and Cycling Network from which we can develop behaviour change initiatives and promote active and sustainable travel itineraries.

“The National Walking and Cycling Network within and around the National Park has a number of infrastructure gaps though such as Tarbet to Crianlarich and Glen Dochart. These create barriers to safe active travel and active tourism.”

Last month, the Advertiser reported plans for more than 30 new holiday home chalets to be built in Ardlui, north of Arrochar.

Meanwhile, Argyll and Bute Council’s own indicative regional space strategy placed a new railway station at Faslane naval base, safer trunk roads and filling in the gaps in the area’s cycling network among its priorities for the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

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