Staffin Community Trust (SCT) is stepping up its efforts to secure the funding package to develop our harbour, by launching new boat tours next month.

Trotternish Boat Tours will offer 90-minute trips from Staffin Harbour, with passengers offered the chance to experience the wildlife and landscape in the most popular part of the island.

SCT is one of the first community organisations to run boat trips in Scotland.

It comes as SCT is hoping to complete the purchase of the harbour and adjacent area from Highland Council and Scottish Ministers this spring. The community buyout will support’s SCT’s drive to deliver major improvements including a new breakwater, upgraded slipway, pontoons and on-shore facilities.

SCT has agreed to lease the Skye Xplorer II, which can carry up to 10 passengers, from the current owner Andi Dunkel for the 2023 season with a view to purchasing the boat afterwards. Mr Dunkel has been running trips out of Uig, which is 9 miles away from Staffin, for the past decade. SCT intends to run three tours a day around Staffin Bay, Flodigarry Island and Kilt Rock between April and October. Passengers will also be able to enjoy sea views of the hugely popular Trotternish Ridge and Quiraing from the boat.

SCT director Angus Ross shakes hands with skipper Andi Dunkel, flanked by Staffin harbour users Charlie Elder, Calum MacDonald, Jock Gordon and Alister MacKinnon.

SCT, which was set up in 1994, has had to think creatively in light of the challenging economic climate and lack of capital money available for communities to bid for, with European funding no longer an option following Brexit.

The trust is confident the new tours can generate an important income to support the management of the harbour when it comes into community ownership - and that in turn will help it secure grants and possible loan finance to support the construction costs of the harbour upgrade, which has full planning permission.

SCT chairman Donald MacDonald said: “This is an important and ambitious step that will create employment as well as generating much needed income for the trust. It is important that the trust is driving forward new initiatives and not just depending on the public purse for the upkeep of the harbour. The wider community could help tremendously by promoting the tours to visitors throughout the season which helps the local economy through community-led projects, such as this.”

Mr Dunkel said: "I’m really excited to team up with Staffin Community Trust for the 2023 season. With the unique backdrop of the Quiraing and Kilt Rock, it offers a really picturesque boat trip experience in the north of the Trotternish peninsula. I’m sure this venture will generate loads of interest and will advance the opportunities to develop the Staffin Harbour project.”

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Skye Explorer II will be staffed by a part-time team of skippers and SCT is keen to develop training opportunities for jobs in the marine sector.

Meanwhile, SCT has already secured £2.2million in grant funding to deliver extensive enabling works to the harbour, with the 1-mile access road upgraded last year. SCT plans to start phase 2 in the coming weeks by blasting and extracting rock material from nearby Lealt Quarry for the construction of the new breakwater and harbour. The third and final phase is scheduled for next year.

SCT’s board of directors and a steering group made up of local residents and harbour users including fishing boat owners and aquaculture company Organic Sea Harvest, are progressing the development.

The new breakwater will create a sheltered haven that can be used by local and visiting boats, all year round. The pontoons will provide local boats with safe berths that can be used 12 months of the year, and opportunities for visiting leisure craft to tie up for the night.

The Staffin Harbour project funders to date include the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, Fisheries Harbours Assistance, Marine Fisheries Fund, the Scottish Land Fund and Organic Sea Harvest.