Saturday, 30 June 2012

Explore the Highlands of Scotland by hopping aboard the bus!

Explore the Highlands Of Scotland by bus.
Andrew Donaldson (Comrie Croft), Catherine Huber (Morenish
Mews self-catering accommodation), Bob Stevenson (partner
 at Bridge of Lochay Hotel) and Ken Chew (also from Morenish
 Mews) at the Ring of Breadalbane Explorer bus service launch.
Exploring the incredible history and spectacular scenery of the Highlands of Scotland just got a whole lot easier thanks to a pioneering hop-on bus service.

The Ring of Breadalbane Explorer bus service is the brainchild of the Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative (BTC) - a collection of businesses working together to promote the wider area.

Now visitors and locals alike will be able to explore the rich culture, heritage and landscapes of Highland Perthshire, passing through some of Scotland’s major attractions such as the Scottish Crannog Centre, the Famous Grouse Experience and Auchingarrich Wildlife Park.

The hope is the new venture will not only breathe life into rural communities, by providing viable public transport, but also increase the number of visitors to this hidden tourism gem.

It is believed to be the first time a tourism group has collaborated in this way to secure funding from two different Scottish councils.

The Breadalbane group was originally formed by the Rural Team at Scottish Enterprise over four years ago as one of its 'Planning to Succeed' groups.

Since then the group has secured funding from Stirling and Perth & Kinross Councils, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Scottish Enterprise, Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust (Big Tree Country) and from a number of local businesses within the Explorer's 'Ring'.

BTC chairman Ken Chew said, "The Ring of Breadalbane Explorer is a pilot hop-on hop off timetabled bus service which will allow visitors and locals to experience all that is on offer in the wonderful Breadalbane area.

"We are very excited about this new initiative. As far as we know this is the first time a tourism group has collaborated in this way. We have successfully sourced funding from both the private and public sector and secured buy-in from two different councils in the area."

Support for the scheme has come from Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) - a subsidiary of Scottish Enterprise.

Sarah Deas, chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland, said, "Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative is an excellent example of what can be achieved by the consortium business model.

"It allows businesses in the area to come together and launch this exciting new route which will put Breadalbane on the map in every sense.

"It seems especially appropriate to be launching this exciting scheme in the UN-designated International Year of Co-operatives and we wish it every success. By setting up a consortium BTC has been able to secure funding and buy-in from two different councils as well as a range of businesses in the area."

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Perthshire South & Kinross-shire, said, "This new hop-on bus service is a really exciting development which will be an excellent addition to the wonderful facilities, scenery and attractions that the beautiful area of Breadalbane and Strathearn already has on offer and I personally am looking forward to using it as soon as possible.

"The business model on which this venture is based with the co-operative being owned by the businesses who will benefit from the service is one I welcome.

"I am sure that this route will prove very popular indeed with visitors and with locals as well and I wish the operators every success and look forward to the Ring of Breadalbane becoming established as not just a bus service but a tourist draw in its own right."

The service, operated by Kingshouse Travel of Balquhidder, will run six times a day, four days per week from the 17th of July through to the 16th of September. The complete circular route takes about three hours with fares to be priced at £9 per adult for an all-day ticket or £15 for a two-day ticket.

BTC was formed in 2012 by 10 founder member businesses as part of a pilot for the Scottish Enterprise Planning to Succeed Rural Development Programme. Members included owners of accommodation (hotels, self-catering, hostel, campsite), food and beverage outlets, a coach operator, shops, activity operators and visitor attractions.

The group developed an action plan based around areas of common interest and met formally as a group during the year and informally between members on numerous other occasions. Based on a Scottish Enterprise evaluation of group collaborative activities and successes, the group was successful in being awarded a two year extension (2011-2013) under the Planning to Succeed Programme.

Group Members (and Directors) are: Alba Virtual Tours, Alistair Barclay; Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre, Andrew Scott; Bridge of Lochay Hotel, Amanda Clark (Director & Treasurer); Comrie Croft, Andrew Donaldson (Director); Dalchonzie Farm Shop, David Burberry; Dal Riata, Thomas McGonigle (Director & Secretary); Do It Outdoors, Ian MacFarlane; Kingshouse Travel, Graeme Courtney; Morenish Mews, Ken Chew (Director & Chair); Old Smiddy Killin, Michael Crow; Portnellan Lodges & Cottages, Cameron Taylor (Director); Scottish Crannog Centre, Barrie Andrian.

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