Pluscarden Abbey has been awarded a grant of £80,500 from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. The purpose of the fund is to relieve the pressure of increased tourism in remote locations. The problem has become acute in Scotland in the past few years, where it is feared that popular places to visit might become degraded if provision is not made for extra vehicle parking, toilets and rubbish collection. Visitor statistics seem to indicate that numbers will increase still further.
The object of the award at Pluscarden is the provision of a new parking area outside the immediate curtilage of the Abbey. Day visitors will thereby be encouraged to leave their vehicles outside the gates and walk up the entrance drive, thus helping to preserve the tranquillity of the grounds beside the Abbey and also enhance their own experience of the beauty of the setting. However, there will be no need for those coming to daily Mass to do this, as the times for Mass do not coincide with the peak periods for day visitors.
The site chosen for the new car park is the field behind the Lodge, which for some years has lain fallow after we were obliged to quit the cultivation of potatoes. The site is conveniently located, well screened with trees and shrubs, and large enough to accommodate 30 parking spaces, including 2 for coaches. The road surface will be constructed of porous aggregate, so that there will be no run-off of surface water into the Black Burn adjacent to the field. Toilets, waste bins and some outdoor seating will also be provided; and some information boards will help visitors to gain more from their stay.
Until we are able to build the new women’s accommodation in the Abbey’s South Range (which we hope will be quite soon) there will be a fence and a screen of shrubbery between the car park and Saint Scholastica’s to preserve the privacy and quiet for residents; furthermore, pedestrians from the car park will be discouraged from straying into the area outside the residents’ accommodation.
It is not our purpose deliberately to increase the number of visitors to the Abbey, which seems set to increase in any case. There is nothing in this scheme which is designed to add further incentive to visit; nor is there anything which will provide us with financial gain. Rather, the intention is to improve the experience of those who have chosen to visit, and help them to appreciate the unique qualities of the Abbey. It is always our hope that our ministry of prayer and public worship will be a witness to our faith and hope, which visitors can carry away with them to enhance their daily lives.