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NC500 'trolley dash bad for business'

By SPP Reporter

James Mather
James Mather

CAPE Wrath minibus operator James Mather believes the success of NC500 has had an adverse impact on his business.

Visitors to Cape Wrath lighthouse first cross the Kyle of Durness by ferry and are then transported to and from the lighthouse by mini bus.

The 11-mile track is Highland Council’s responsibility but is poorly maintained and full of potholes.

Mr Mather took over the service from his aunt Iris Mather Mackay in 2011 and said the 2017 season has been the worst yet.

He said: "Our visitor season has reached an all time low and is by far the worst since I started in 2011.

"I have no doubt that numbers have been influenced by the extremely poor weather during the summer period but also, in my opinion, by what has become the relentless 500 mile trolly dash called NC500.

"We must now compete with large attractions like Dunrobin Castle and the Castle of Mey, whereas before, folks chose a specific area to holiday.

"We can only hope that visitors will find areas they like and re-visit for a longer stay, in effect re-inventing the wheel!"

Mr Mather is very concerned at the planned closure of Durness Visitor Centre in October next year (See councillor’s column page 9).

He said: "The centre is a very valuable interface between visitors and people on the ground, with high levels of local knowledge, able to open up the area so much to anyone visiting the north west corner.

"It has been said that the demise of the centres has been due to the fact people now use smart phones and prefer non-contact based fact finding. Trouble is, we all know how well smart phones do Not work up here.

"We may soon become the forgotten lands up here. almost. I say almost, because we still have to pay council tax, road tax and every other kind of hidden tax, in return for, well, quite frankly, not a lot."

Mr Mather is also upset that he is not receiving more support from Highland Council to upgrade the Cape Wrath road to a tolerable standard.

After lobbying the local authority, it was agreed to supply him with a few tonnes of tar planings from other road works.

He said: "That is most welcome – once I transport them in my own boat, unload with my own tractor and finally fill in the potholes myself."

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