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UHI research projects which have had a positive impact on sustainable tourism in the Highlands and Islands have been celebrated at an event organised by NatureScot.

‘The Coast that Shaped the World’ (COAST), led by the Centre of Tourism and Recreation at UHI West Highland, and ‘the Uist Virtual Archaeology Project, led by UHI Archaeology Institute researchers at UHI Outer Hebrides, were amongst projects celebrated at the National and Cultural Heritage Fund Celebratory Event on Tuesday [30 May, 2023].

COAST is a community-led project designed to encourage locals and visitors to explore less well travelled areas of the west coast and islands of Scotland. It involved 32 local story gatherers, who uncovered stories celebrating the people, communities, and heritage of the area. Almost 400 stories have been shared on an immersive website and app for locals and visitors to follow. The stories have also featured in touring exhibitions.

The Uist Virtual Archaeology Project was developed by UHI Outer Hebrides Archaeology staff in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  The project developed ‘Uist Unearthed,’ which showcases archaeological sites across Uist utilising an award winning free augmented reality app which uses animations, audio, graphics, and stories to encourage visitors to learn more about the islands’ significant archaeological features, including Cladh Hallan, a Bronze Age settlement in South Uist best known for the mummies found beneath its roundhouses.

The NatureScot event celebrated the achievements of the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund – 13 projects that have increased the provision of sustainable tourism in the Highlands and Islands, funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Spirit of the Highlands, which includes research undertaken by the UHI Centre of History based in Dornoch, also featured.

Professor Steve Taylor, Director of the Centre for Recreation and Tourism, said: “UHI is proud to be supporting sustainable tourism in the Highlands and Islands throughout impactful research. COAST and the Uist Virtual Archaeology Project are excellent examples of projects which have positively influenced local tourism, whilst minimising environment impact through the use of digital interpretation. We have seen collaboration between the two projects – COAST features a story about Cladh Hallan developed by the team behind the Uist Unearthed app, while Spirit of the Highlands includes a cycling trail developed by a student as part of COAST – and have already identified further opportunities to work together to support sustainable tourism in the future.”

UHI North Highland, UHI Outer Hebrides and UHI West Highland will merge on 1 August to form UHI North, West and Hebrides, subject to Scottish Government approval.

Picture caption: Left to right, Gary I Campbell, Director of Economic Development and Commercial Services at UHI, Dr Emily Gall, Project Coordinator on Uist Virtual Archaeology Project, UHI Outer Hebrides, Professor Steve Taylor, Director of the Centre for Recreation and Tourism at UHI West Highland, and Kelly Morrison, Project Officer at the Centre for Recreation and Tourism at UHI West Highland