River Ness Hydro Adds to Highlands’ Tourism Offering

Pictured: VisitScotland Regional Development Executive, Caitlin McLeod, is pictured with Gerard Murphy, Director of Hydro NI, on a site visit to River Ness Hydro this week.

As Scotland prepares to host the world’s most significant summit on climate change, VisitScotland has welcomed the opening of a new sustainable visitor attraction in the Highlands.

The £2.55m River Ness Hydro, which is due to open on 7 March 2022, will utilise innovative technology at its heart and will include an interactive visitor experience.

The sustainable new development, on the banks of the River Ness at the city’s Whin Park, will include an interactive visitor experience.

The scheme itself will generate and supply around 50% of the electricity demand to Inverness Leisure, which runs the city’s Aquadome swimming centre – a tourist facility popular with visitors to the region.

The innovative new building – which houses an ‘Archimedes Screw’ hydro-electric scheme – will allow visitors to see up close how energy is made and will include an immersive visitor experience using media and video content and QR codes.

It will tell the fascinating story of hydro in the Highlands and how it has evolved over the years; provide information on the history of the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal; highlight a themed trail with links to Inverness Castle and include time-lapse footage of the construction process.

This unique project and structure is expected to attract a huge amount of interest from locals and tourists alike.

In a ‘normal’ year, the Highlands would expect to receive around 12.5m visitors, including 3m overnight stays and 9.5m day visits.

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said:

“New tourism investment in the Highlands is always welcome – particularly as we recover from the challenges of the last 18 months – and this innovative new development is a brilliant example of a pioneering tourism experience.

“It extends the city’s tourism product, its sustainability and ‘green’ credentials are second-to-none and its aims align closely with our ‘Tourism Declares’ pledge.

“Last November, VisitScotland was the first national tourism organisation in the world to sign up to the Tourism Declares initiative, pledging to take action to reduce carbon emissions and support businesses to do the same.

“With the tourism industry facing huge challenges due to the pandemic, our plans recognise the importance of balancing necessary business survival with a sustainable and responsible recovery.

“Visitor attractions and experiences play an important role in both the tourism industry and in local communities in Scotland.

“Our galleries, castles, museums and historic sites all showcase Scotland’s incredible culture, heritage and history.

“Despite the many challenges Scottish tourism faces, we need to work with visitors, and the tourism and events industry, to be bold, ambitious and innovative to tackle climate change.

“VisitScotland is focused on the recovery of the industry, building a destination and visitor experience which allows tourism to flourish now and in the future.

“We’ll continue to work with and support businesses to ensure we rebuild this vital part of Scotland’s economy.”

The COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this month will focus on the continuing impact of climate change and the increasing climate risks around the world.

Visitors to the River Ness Hydro will have the opportunity to learn more about climate change, sustainability, the environment and ecology.

The new scheme will be fully accessible by the public and will promote healthy and sustainable travel as it will be linked by a path to Inverness city centre making it accessible to walkers, cyclists, pushchairs and families on bikes.

Malcolm Macleod, Highland Council’s Executive Chief Officer for Infrastructure, Environment and Economy, said:

“I am delighted to see the River Ness Hydro proposal coming to fruition; a lot of time and effort has gone into what is a really complex and ambitious project that utilises old infrastructure and technology to help address a very current and modern problem in the form of climate change.

“The scheme will generate over 500,000kWh of electricity annually, supplying the nearby Inverness Leisure Centre with more than 50% of its electrical demand and saving over 140,000kg CO2e per annum; this business model also helps protect the Council from future energy price increases and provides long-term financial stability.

“Acting as a hub for STEM learning, the innovative structure and supporting interactive content will ensure the scheme is a welcome addition to a high footfall area of the city, further strengthening the river as an attraction and re-introducing it as valued asset for renewable generation.

“We are really excited about the project and hugely grateful for the ongoing support we have received from our valued partners.

“We hope that the River Ness Hydro leaves a lasting legacy for the region, inspiring young engineers and further demonstrating Highland Council’s commitment to sustainability.”