Staffin-based Ecomuseum’s phase II secures major Heritage Lottery grant

SCOTLAND’s first Ecomuseum – which opened in Staffin almost a decade ago – is to undergo an exciting revamp and improvements thanks to major National Lottery investment.

Staffin Community Trust (SCT) is delighted to announce the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has approved a £522,000 grant to enhance the Skye Ecomuseum experience for visitors and the island’s resident communities. The HLF award will enable the construction of a viewing platform at Lealt Gorge, new footpaths and interpretation, a central Staffin “orientation point”, a full events programme and the creation of a project manager’s job on a three-year contract.

An economic impact study estimated that the Staffin economy would be boosted by an additional visitor spend of £165,000 through the project’s next phase. This is particularly welcomed in Staffin which has suffered a recent 5 per cent population decline and lacks permanent employment opportunities.

The Skye Ecomuseum is an outdoor museum with “no walls and a roofless sky” and opened in 2009. It saw a footpath network opened up at 14 different sites including Lealt, Culnacnoc, Tote, Garafad, Brogaig, Digg and Flodigarry. Interpretation was installed illustrating the story of each particular area focusing on the heritage and landscape which includes the famous Staffin Beach dinosaur footprints, crofting, the Gaelic language, industries, wildlife, geology, archaeology, etc.

Industrial heritage at Lealt

Also known as ‘Ceumannan’, the Gaelic word for footsteps, the Ecomuseum has been a responding success in highlighting Staffin’s heritage and improving the area’s economy.

In 2014, SCT commenced a development phase, after receiving a HLF Development grant, and progressed the Ecomuseum’s phase II proposals working with public agencies and consultants. The Ecomuseum has direct heritage, education, health, economic and social cohesion benefits for Staffin, which is classed as a “fragile” community by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “The National Lottery is ensuring that Skye’s spectacular landscape remains one of our greatest national assets, attracting visitors from home and abroad and making a vital contribution to Scotland’s tourist economy. However it’s not just visitors that benefit. With a bit of clever thinking, we can protect our natural heritage in a way that helps support people and communities. This innovative project will give everyone the opportunity to experience the health, learning and social benefits of the great outdoors. I am sure they will also ignite a passion for our natural world and its long-term conservation.”

SCT chairman Donald MacDonald said: “The board of Staffin Trust is delighted to have received this award on behalf of our community. This will allow for further development of what is already a very successful project and allow us to create an identify for our region that is specific to us. As a committee we aspire to our theme of ‘climb the Cuillin, walk Trotternish’ and for the whole of Skye this is a significant investment in our tourism and educational infrastructure. The fact that this funding will also create a new three-year post is also important in a remote fragile area and will help to give people confidence, pride and a sense of place.”

HIE works closely with SCT and supports the employment of local development officer Hugh Ross who works with the community to develop an economic, social and cultural plan for future growth. Hugh is involved in a range of community projects – like the Ecomuseum – which aims to increase local development activity and helps capitalise on its rich cultural heritage.

Archaeology events planned.

Archaeology events planned.

The HLF grant will help fund the following:

  • Major capital works including a viewing platform at Lealt Gorge, new and upgraded footpaths at Loch Langaig, Flodigarry and Grealin-Lealt
  • Significant and attractive interpretation “welcome” structures at the Storr, Quiraing and Flodigarry (the gateways into the Ecomuseum and Staffin)
  • An Ecomuseum orientation point in central Staffin proving information about the different walking routes, maps etc
  • Removal and replacement of all the existing interpretation panels at the 14 Ceumannan sites
  • Fresh branding and marketing strategy for the Skye Ecomuseum
  • A new user-responsive and mobile-friendly website
  • A packed events/activities programmes which includes a walking festival, guided walks and tours, an education curriculum pack for Skye primary schools, children’s craft and storytelling events, health walks, archaeology/wildlife events/workshops in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands, a Staffin Business Forum, a Staffin Local History Group, new leaflets etc etc
  • Full-time Ecomuseum project manager’s job in Staffin on a three-year contract
Ceumannan interpreation.

Ceumannan interpreation.


SCT would like to thank HIE for its continued support and guidance, Staffin Community Council, local crofting townships and clerks, residents and businesses including Staffin Primary School, the Staffin Hall, The Wee Quilter, Skyelight Candles, Bealach Uige B&B, Quiraing View B&B, Columba 1400, Guy Matthews, Dun Flodigarry Youth Hostel and Portree Youth Hostel, for their input and support.

SCT is also very grateful for the work carried out by former SCT development officer Marion Beaton into the first round HLF application. Special thanks are also due to Highland Council’s Skye access officer Donald Kennedy.

SCT would also like to thank the consultant teams for their efforts including Chris York of Walking the Talk Ltd; Geoff Freedman; Muir Associates, Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services, Steve Westbrook and MacDonald Orr Design. Jock Gordon Design Services also made an important contribution as did Ruth Meekings. SCT would also like to thank HLF for its support and assistance during the development phase including Holly Watson, Catriona MacPherson, Audrey Dunn and Jane Davies; Dan Lee of the UHI Archaeology Institute, Alan Melrose of Walk Deeside Ltd, Arwell Jones, Gwenan Jones and Einir Young of the Ll?n Ecomuseum in north Wales; Phil McCaherty at HIE; Alex Turner and Sarah McGrory of Scottish Natural Heritage; David MacVicar and Ewen MacPherson at the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspections Division and Alison Harvey and Fred McIntosh at Highland Council.