The weekly opinion of the Editor on topical events affecting Moray.
A SMALL COASTAL community they may be, but villagers in Portgordon are doing all they can to ensure that visitors are made welcome.
Throughout the last year Portgordon has held several events – not the least being their magnificent celebrations back in May marking the anniversary of VE Day.
With their own community newsletter – the ‘Portgordon Post’ – every member of the village community is kept informed on events and, as a result, many more have joined in their organisation.
The result has been an image of Portgordon to the rest of Moray and to the wider tourism industry that they might live in a sleepy little coastal village but it is it very much open for business in the tourism industry.
Next up for the village is their very aptly named ‘A Taste of Portgordon’ event on September 19, when the village hall committee and volunteers have got together to once again showcase their thriving community.
The Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire, Clare Russell, will open proceedings for an afternoon that offers local people the chance to showcase their cooking and craft talents – while entertainment will be laid on and visitors will be invited to help the community choose their new Logo for the hall.
What is happening in Portgordon is happening all along the Moray coast. This has been the week when Lossiemouth was named as one of the top 25 seaside destinations for British tourists.
The town saw an amazing a 70% increase in booking enquiries to an online accommodation website owned by the respected Tripadvisor.
Lossie has come a very long way in a short time – only a few years ago the community was staring at disaster with the possible loss of the local RAF base, in the midst of a recession and with very little encouragement that things were going to get any better.
The community rose to fight for their base – and since that fight has gone on, perhaps not quite so ‘in your face’ as the Save RAF Lossiemouth battle but equally effective.
Lossie’s community council switched from being a ‘talking shop’ to a proactive group, a new Trust has been created that is already doing an effective job of promoting the town with the growth of the week-long Seafest joining the already astoundingly successful annual Raft Race.
Along the coast a bit and Hopeman is another community that is determined to capitalise on its natural attractions.
New owners of the West Beach Caravan Park have turned what was becoming a run-down site into a thriving Tourist destination, while the strength of purpose in the village was superbly demonstrated when hundreds turned out to show their disgust at dog litter by cleaning it up – and a whole lot more.
The strength of feeling in the community was further demonstrated when weather forced the cancellation of their Harbour Day – they could’ve just given up, but it will go ahead in September.
In Burghead there is even more evidence of a coastal community awaking to the realisation that visitors perhaps need more reason to come than pretty scenery.
The recent ‘Viking Day’ was just the latest in a series of events organised by the community themselves and supported by just about everyone in the village.
Then there was the creation of the monument to those Norwegian and British sailors who served on the WWII ‘Shetland Bus’ service, demonstrating that, like Portgordon, this community care about their past as well as their future.
Further west at Kinloss the creation of Morayvia’s science and technology attraction looks set to be yet another absolute must-see for visitors to our part of the Moray coast. It is expected that this will open next month, slowly easing its way through the winter before, no doubt, becoming a major draw next summer.
And finally there is Findhorn, always a community that is very well aware of the importance of attracting visitors.
The introduction of North 58 and their boat tours has helped attract even more people – many of whom have benefitted from their stunningly effective success rate in linking up with possibly our greatest natural ambassadors, the Moray Firth dolphin and whale population.
Linking all this together is another community initiative, the Laich Coast Tourism Group of which I currently have the honour to chair.
A new leaflet is due to be published this month by the group that underlines many of the initiatives I’ve listed here – although the ‘reach’ of the group does not yet go east beyond Lossiemouth, it hopes to encompass communities as far as Cullen in the near future.
So plenty to be proud of along the Moray coast and almost every bit of it created by the community, for the community – and, hopefully, attracting many, many more visitors.
If there is one missing link it is perhaps just that – a link, perhaps a regular summer bus service directly joining all of those communities, a pop-on pop-off service similar to those used in large cities – except with the most stunning scenery imaginable along the way.
Given what has been achieved so far, why not?