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Reaching for the (Rising) Stars in Dornoch

Press Release   •   Nov 02, 2016 12:56 GMT

Dornoch town

An historic Highland town which has seen its visitor numbers soar by over 30% over the last year is the only Scottish finalist in The Great British High Street Awards.

The seaside resort of Dornoch has been nominated in the ‘Rising Star’ category of the awards for locations that, through hard work, have turned around their high streets. The winner is decided by a public vote and a judges’ visit (50% each).

The town’s application was made by members of the Dornoch Area Community Interest Company (DACIC) to celebrate the various initiatives by the community, business, private and public partnership, over the last three years to attract more visitors to the town and to ensure a warm welcome once they arrive.

DACIC ran a series of training courses to ensure that accommodation providers and those employed in eateries and shops provide the highest level of customer service. Dornoch achieved WorldHost destination status in 2015, when it was only the fourth area in Scotland to do so.Four young ‘Dornoch Ambassadors’ were also recruited who, throughout the summer, greeted and guided visitors and were a cheerful and visible presence in the town.

The disused Sutherland Sherriff Court House was recently bought by an entrepreneur who has transformed the listed building into the ‘Carnegie Courthouse’. Housing a visitor centre, which has been part funded by the community with support from DACIC, the building now includes a whisky-tasting cellar, spa, tea shop and delicatessen, with public WiFi.

The aim is to encourage longer stays in Dornoch, especially out of season, by promoting events and activities through the new visitor centre, on social media and via the website

Between February and October 2016, visitor figures recorded at the visitor centre were up 32% on the same period last year. Some of the increase has been attributed to their proximity to the NC500 and also cruise ship passengers stopping off in the town on coach trips.

With its buildings made of local sandstone, and local attractions including a 13th century cathedral, historic castle, court house and jail, Dornoch is one of Scotland’s most charming and interesting little towns. Earlier this month VisitScotland announced that boutique bed & breakfast Fionn Lodge, which overlooks the first green on the Royal Dornoch championship golf course, had attained a 5* Quality Assurance award at its very first grading visit.

The town is globally famed for its championship golf course which has recently been ranked as high as #1 in Scotland and #5 in the world. The first record of golf being played on Dornoch’s challenging but beautiful links was in 1616 and this year, Royal Dornoch Golf Club is working closely with the local community for a year of celebration to mark 400 years of golf at Dornoch. This has also attracted interest for visitors.

The thriving town is up against competition from Leomister and Stockton-on-Tees – both of which have larger populations than Dornoch. This year’s competition saw a record 900 entries across all 14 categories, including new categories for individuals and shops. Now the shortlist has been drawn up and the public has the chance to vote directly for their best-loved high street online.

Voting runs from 18th October to 18th November 2016, during which time everyone will be entitled to cast one vote per person, per day at

If Dornoch wins, not only will they get a share of a prize pot of £100,000 but they will win expert training from Google’s digital taskforce for shops, bars and restaurants and a trip to Twitter UK’s London office to further boost their social media skills.

Joan Bishop, Chair of the Dornoch Area Community Interest Company (DACIC) said: “When we submitted our application, visitor numbers were up 20% but we have had an exceptional couple of months recently which have boosted that to a 32% visitor increase between February and October, when compared to last year.

“Our success in Dornoch is due to the support of the whole community. But to win this national award, we now need everyone to vote daily. Help us make sure our small town packs a big punch!”

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said:

“I am delighted to hear that Dornoch has been shortlisted in these awards as the community and local businesses have worked very hard to make the town a must-visit destination in the Highlands.

“It is incredibly important that we attract visitors outwith the traditional tourist season from April to October, so to see that Dornoch has recognised this and is actively seeking to address this through the new visitor centre, events and activities is to be praised as this helps boost the visitor economy.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides an international shop window for Scotland. Without tourism many remote communities would not be sustainable and business sectors like food and drink, retail or construction would be severely impacted.

“I wish DACIC the best of luck and will be doing my bit to vote for them on the website.”

The Great British High Street Competition celebrates the great work that is being done to revive, adapt and diversify the nation’s high streets. It is one of a number of initiatives to help champion high streets as the cornerstones of the community.

Notes to Editors

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      2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

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  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design started on 1 January 2016 and will end on 31 December 2016.It will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
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