Apr 13 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Friday
KILLIN’S tourist industry is continuing to feel the impact of the closure of its tourist centre a year on, say critics of the move.
Breadalbane Folklore Centre opened in 1994 and cost £550,000 to develop in a converted mill beside the Falls of Dochart.
It housed a visitor information centre and two floors of exhibitions on local clans, historic sites and the story of St Fillans.
Now Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs chairman James Fraser is calling on Stirling Council and other bodies to work together to rescue the centre.
He says it attracted between 60,000 and 85,000 visitors a year and played an important gateway role as well as supporting the fragile tourist industry in the northern part of the national park.
He said: “It is somewhat ironic this closure took place within months of the announcement by the Scottish cabinet secretary John Swinney of £500,000 funding for a new Cairngorms National Park gateway centre in Blair Atholl, just 44 miles away from Killin.
“There are clearly two entirely different approaches to the delivery of information services in the neighbouring national parks, with Killin and visitors to the village being the unfortunate losers as a result of a lack of partnership working and prioritisation of visitor information provision at this busy entrance to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.”
He added: “It was unfortunate the council and Stirling District Tourism Ltd, the council's charitable trust, broke the funding link between the National Wallace Monument, the Rob Roy Centre and the folklore centre as some of the large surpluses previously generated by the monument were used to cross-subsidise the more fragile rural centres in Callander and Killin.
“Interestingly, a recent survey undertaken by the national park authority reinforced the importance of tourist information, with two-thirds of all visitors seeking information while they are in the area.”
A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “We are keen to see groups like Friends of Loch Lomond and Trossachs taking an interest but they do not appear to have all the facts.
“It was not Stirling Council’s decision to close the facility but one that Stirling District Tourism (SDT) took, having run the loss-making centre for a significant number of years. The actual visitor numbers and visitor experience had deteriorated over the years, with 5612 paying visitors in 2008-9, 4456 visitors in 2009-10 and only 3649 people paying into the attraction in 2010-11. SDT, with the agreement of the council, took the decision it would close the centre after the 2011 season finished in October.
“Discussions have been ongoing with Killin and Ardeonaig Development Trust (KAT), Killin Community Council, the national park authority and the wider Killin community through two open public meetings hosted by KAT in September and November. The meetings were to talk about the future of the building and about visitor services for Killin.
“It has been agreed that KAT will look to evolve a proposal to reuse the building and they hope to have their initial ideas presented to council in June. Discussions on promoting local visitor services have been undertaken in parallel, with local businesses, who agreed to act as an interim visitor information centre.
“The council, in consultation with local groups, has temporarily repatriated the artefacts to ensure they are safely looked after until a final decision is made on the way forward for the old mill. The Healing Stones, for example, are within the local church.
“The council and the national park have assisted KAT with the initial funding of a conservation plan and option appraisal for the old mill and both authorities’ staff continue to support KAT as they evolve their proposals. The most recent discussions were held in mid-March and KAT are now in discussions with funders such as Forth Valley and Lomond Leader.”