Mull Eagle Watch flying high after receiving five stars from VisitScotland
17 October 2012
Media and Communications Officer
It’s been wowing visitors for over a decade, but a popular attraction in Mull is set to have even more tourists flocking after becoming only the second 5-star Wildlife Experience in Scotland.
The Mull Eagle Watch, which offers unrivalled views of nesting white-tailed eagles, has earned VisitScotland’s highest Quality Assurance grading award.
The partnership project, which is run by Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Strathclyde Police, Scottish Natural Heritage, Mull and Iona Community Trust and local volunteers, has been upgraded from four (“Excellent”) to five (“Exceptional”) stars.
The new rating further secures Mull’s reputation as a premier wildlife-watching site, the island is one of the best places in Europe to enjoy unique and spectacular sights of eagles, as well as other wildlife such as otters, seabirds, whales, basking sharks and red deer.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse welcomed the new five star rating: "White-tailed sea eagles are often referred to as 'flying barn doors' due to the birds' massive and broad wingspan - it is like no other bird seen in Britain. They are stunning birds and it is not surprising that visitors travel far and wide to see them.
"Mull Eagle Watch is a fantastic project which has involved a number of partners, including the local community, collaborating together. The eagles are a success story in a number of ways and the fact that up to £5 million is brought into the local economy each year through the project is a major achievement for all involved."
VisitScotland Regional Director David Adams McGilp said: “Nature tourism is very important to Scotland and I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Mull Eagle Watch on this fantastic achievement. Five-star status shows visitors that they can expect a fantastic and enjoyable experience, whilst learning all about these magnificent birds in their natural habitat on this beautiful island. Next year is The Year of Natural Scotland and our natural environment is the number one reason why people visit Scotland - let’s celebrate it!”
RSPB Scotland Mull Officer Dave Sexton said: “This five star accolade is further evidence of what stunning white-tailed eagles and other Scottish wildlife tourism can do for a rural economy. The eagles put places like Mull and indeed the whole of Scotland right up there on the world stage for exceptional wildlife watching experiences. We are really looking forward to working with fellow wildlife operators to deliver something really special for 2013, the Year of Natural Scotland.” In total, there are 37 businesses across Scotland accredited by VisitScotland as Wildlife Experiences however only two are 5-star level: Mull Eagle Hide and Hetherlea Bird Watching trips in Nethybridge.
Stuart Maidment, Forestry Commission Scotland's forester on Mull said: "We're thrilled to bits to have five stars but we all know that the eagles are the real stars here. Once you've seen a white-tailed eagle you'll never forget it and that's why visitors flock to the viewing hide each year. We're proud that Scotland's national forest estate is home to the eagles and especially that the Mull economy is benefiting from this brilliant wildlife project."
This year, for the first time, the popular Mull Eagle Watch ‘Date with Nature’ project came from Forestry Commission Scotland’s Glen Seilisdeir forest allowing the public to follow the fortunes of white-tailed eagle pair, Fingal and his mate Iona.
This ‘Date with Nature’ project is part-funded by the EU Interreg IVa HELP project, and administered by the SEUPB. This is a partnership between Southern and Northern Ireland and Argyll and the Islands which aims to link people with nature and, in particular, iconic species.
An independent study, commissioned by RSPB Scotland in 2011, found that that tourists travelling to see white-tailed eagles on Mull can contribute up to £5 million per year to the local economy. This season the project welcomed around 3000 visitors, and with wildlife on the island to be seen all year round, the new grading will help boost Scottish tourism in the quieter autumn and winter seasons.
More details about the Mull Eagle Watch and the ‘Date With Nature’ project can be found at http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/mulleagles/
· Income from the Mull Eagle Hide goes to help create a seasonal Ranger job on the island and is distributed by the Mull & Iona Community Trust to support numerous local projects and good causes. Over £75,000 has been awarded to local groups since the project began.
· Out of a total of 37 wildlife experiences, Mull Eagle Watch is one of only two in the whole of Scotland to have achieved five stars and also has a Silver Green Tourism Business award, demonstrating its commitment to the wider environment.
· The Mull Eagle Watch pair – Fingal and Iona -were monitored by CCTV and protected as part of the Mull Eagle Watch partnership project which involves, RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, SNH, Strathclyde Police Mull and Iona Community Trust and local volunteers.
· Since its creation in 2000, the Mull Eagle Watch ‘Date With Nature’ project has offered visitors unrivalled views of nesting white-tailed eagles and has featured in many TV programmes such as the BBC’s Spring and Autumnwatch’, ‘Natural World’ and ‘Animal 24/7’.
· White-tailed eagles were reintroduced to the Isle of Rum in 1975 after they became extinct in the UK in 1918. They first bred again on Mull in 1985. Now they are being reintroduced to the east coast of Scotland and in Ireland.
· SEEVIEWS, the Sea Eagle Education, Viewing, Interpretation and Engagement within Scotland project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund will primarily focus on engaging and educating the public about white-tailed eagles on Mull, Skye, Wester Ross and Eastern Scotland.
· The public viewing project for white-tailed eagles on Mull is part-funded by the ’HELP’ project which is funded by the EU's European Regional Development Fund, Northern Ireland's Department of Environment and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the Republic of Ireland.
· The EU's INTERREG IVA Programme is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
· Mull Eagle Watch is also part funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage
· VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
· The organisation has three key roles:
1. To market Scotland to all parts of the world to attract visitors
2. To provide information – and inspiration – to visitors and potential visitors so they get the best out of a visit to Scotland
3. To provide quality assurance to visitors and quality advice to the industry and partners to help the industry meet and strive to exceed customer expectations
· VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.