Mull Eagle Watch flying high after receiving five stars from VisitScotland
Last modified: 17 October 2012
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/
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