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New brand identity for Ross-shire peninsula aims to bring in Highland tourists


By Philip Murray

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Looking towards the Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack. Picture: Philip Murray.
Looking towards the Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack. Picture: Philip Murray.

AMBITIOUS plans to rebrand an Easter Ross peninsula as a must-visit destination and beacon for slow tourism are moving ahead.

A new 'brand' identity and tag line are in the process of being chosen for the Tarbat peninsula and communities dotted from Tain to Nigg.

Local surveys are expected to close today, with people being asked to decide between Easter Ross Peninsula and Ross Peninsula as an overarching brand name – and between taglines which highlight the area as a "haven for explorers" or playing on its rich history as a "sanctuary for saints, kings and travellers".

And the team behind the initiative, the Tain and District Development Trust (TDDT), are intending to use the successful choices as a stepping stone from which to launch a tourism drive that they hope will channel the success of similar initiatives like the North Coast 500.

They have already lined up a UK and international award-winning design company to help with their logo and branding efforts and have also secured the backing of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the likes of Glenmorangie Distillery.

One of TDDT's directors. Fin Macrae, is hopeful that the brand will enjoy a soft launch in coming weeks and months and will help to drive tourism to the region as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

"When we started up the trust this was one of the things we committed to early on," he said. "People are saying we need an increase in tourism in the area.

"You look at our location just off the NC500, the increase in tourism in the Highlands, and the cruise liners in Invergordon. And, although they are hard markets to tap into... it all comes down to marketing. And this brand will be one small part of that."

He added that the branding could help to make the most of the peninsula's rich history – which includes its Pictish heritage, long-standing links to Scottish monarchs and its role as a key medieval hub – as well as its food and drink, wildlife, landscape and existing attractions like the Mermaid of the North in Balintore.

He hopes the work will lead to "increased employment, improved opportunities for our young" and encourage younger generations to come back to live in the area after university.

And the move towards the new brand comes at an important time for Ross-shire, as it tries to recover from Covid-19.

The Mermaid of the North statue in Balintore is already a draw for tourists.
The Mermaid of the North statue in Balintore is already a draw for tourists.

Mr Macrae said the number of people choosing to staycation in the UK had helped drive more tourists to the Highlands than expected this summer once lockdown lifted, but that continued uncertainty going forward made it important to stand out – especially when many people doing the North Coast 500 route "want to go west".

"We don't want people just for day drips, we also want people to be staying here for a long weekend," he continued, adding that he has a "real hope" the new brand could drive an upturn in visitors.

The push has won plaudits from a leading business figure in the Highlands.

David Richards, who is development manager for the Highlands and Islands at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "This is a really good thing. One thing it does is it gives an area a sense of identity but also gives people reasons to stop relax, enjoy everything the area has to offer.

"It's all about slowing people down, so they spend more money and return in future –get off the beaten track and not race round the well worn track".

He added that an overarching brand helps to foster a "sense of common purpose" among communities and businesses that helps to drive awareness of an area.

Mr Macrae, meanwhile, praised the organisations the TDDT was working with – from Zero, a past British design company of the year winner which is designing the brand, to HIE and its £40,000 grant for the wider project. Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain is also offering support.

He also hopes to work with neighbouring business development trusts and communities to help promote the wider area and drive greater tourism on the east coast.



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