Galloway red kite trail's value soars
A red kite trail in Dumfries and Galloway is worth millions of pounds to the local economy, a report has found.
The Galloway Kite Trail was launched in 2003 in an area north of Castle Douglas.
The latest study of its economic value concluded it had contributed more than £8.2m since it opened to the public.
It has attracted more than 100,000 visitors and supported the equivalent of about 20 full-time jobs in the region.
Calum Murray, RSPB Scotland community liaison officer, said: "The re-introduction of red kites in Dumfries and Galloway has been a massive conservation success story, and we now have over 100 pairs breeding across the region.
"But this survey clearly demonstrates how nature can bring economic benefits to communities as well.
"Tourists are visiting the Galloway Kite Trail from all over the UK, and many are coming here specifically to see our amazing red kites, as well as the other wildlife this region is rightly renowned for.
"It also demonstrates the fantastic support given to the trail by local businesses, and with many visitors making repeat visits, it's a good indication of the high standard of hospitality in the area as well."
The Galloway Kite Trail is a self-guided tour circling Loch Ken, taking visitors to some of the best locations to see kites, as well as promoting activities and services provided by local businesses.
It was set up following the successful reintroduction of red kites to Galloway after an absence of 130 years.
The birds were persecuted to extinction in Scotland in the 19th Century but have since made a comeback.
An economic survey carried out annually by the RSPB between 2004 and 2015 found that visitors to the trail have spent an estimated £54.6m in Dumfries and Galloway, with £8.2m directly attributable to people visiting the area to see the kites.
The survey also found that almost 70% of respondents had travelled to the area from outside Scotland, with two thirds visiting Dumfries and Galloway for the first time.
Doug Wilson, VisitScotland regional director, said: "The Galloway Kite Trail has been a fabulous success story, in many more ways than one.
"As an ambitious nature conservation project, it has achieved outstanding results in terms of increasing red kite numbers, educating the public about these spectacular birds of prey, and raising awareness of the RSPB's superb efforts to protect them and their habitat and encourage breeding.
"The kite trail has also become an outstanding asset in Dumfries and Galloway's incredible portfolio of outdoors activity attractions, giving visitors another great reason to come to the beautiful Galloway Forest Park and explore the stunning Loch Ken area.
"Having attracted well over 100,000 visitors, the trail has delivered significant benefits to tourism within the region and the impact on our local economy has been tremendous."