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Tourism boost for the North-East's 'hidden gems'

A new £100,000 project will highlight the region’s hidden cultural gems and encourage visitors to travel off the beaten track when they come to the North-East.

A new £100,000 project will highlight the region's hidden cultural gems and encourage visitors to travel off the beaten track when they come to the North-East.

Visit Scotland and the University of Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Institute have teamed up for an initiative to collect and collate folklore which will then be used to create films, podcasts or other media, opening up the stories which have long been known in local communities to the wider world.

Research by Visit Scotland has shown that ‘Culture and Heritage’ is one of the main draws for people visiting Scotland with 33% of those interviewed for the most recent Visit Scotland Visitor Survey citing it as the main reason for their stay, rising to 52% among long-haul visitors and 51% among European visitors.

The University of Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Institute is the only research centre specialising in the vibrant vernacular culture of the North-East and North of Scotland and will spearhead the project with its outputs informing tourism campaigns tied to the Year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters 2020 and the Year of Scotland’s Stories 2022.

The stories of the region will be collected through the creation of a number of oral history hubs across Aberdeenshire which will not only support this project but will train local volunteers to collect and compile their history so that it can be preserved for future generations.

Dr Fiona-Jane Brown will lead the project, which is funded by the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development through LEADER.

She said: “The people of Aberdeenshire have a very distinctive character, illustrated in their speech, the Doric dialect, their hard work on land and at sea over many centuries, and in their folklore, the stories, songs, traditions and beliefs.  The latter is often overlooked by historians and inaccessible to visitors.

“This project will help illuminate some of the most fascinating oral history, folklore, and social heritage which can be found in Scotland.

This project will help illuminate some of the most fascinating oral history, folklore, and social heritage which can be found in Scotland." Dr Fiona-Jane Brown

“The Elphinstone Institute has a wealth of expertise in research in this field and working with communities to capture their oral and traditional histories and culture. I’m looking forward to working with communities to develop their stories, having already been involved in a similar project with heritage groups in Formartine back in 2006.  We’ll be tapping into the treasure trove of local memory and hoping to uncover some real gems.

“Once complete, the research will be used to create marketing assets which may include the creation of film, e-books, interactive maps, podcasts, or other media which will bring the stories and the places from which they originate to life.”

The project, which has been in development since 2018, also hopes to capitalise on the potential for increased visitor numbers as a result of the North-East 250 touring route and Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail.  

Dr Thomas McKean, Director of the Elphinstone Institute said: “Our job at the Institute is to listen to those who know North-East culture best and this great partnership does just that, as we work to promote and celebrate the region. This project will be a significant stepping stone towards our broader cultural partnerships and goals.”

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said:We are delighted to be working with the Elphinstone Institute on this exciting new project.

“This region has a strong cultural identity and fascinating history and it is important that we celebrate and share that with visitors. By involving local communities in the project, we hope to receive some great local stories and folklore directly from the people who have had them passed on through the generations or, indeed, have experienced them first-hand.

“VisitScotland works closely with communities and businesses to showcase the rich assets, hidden gems and local stories of every region in Scotland, and this project will ensure that Aberdeenshire’s authentic stories are heard and celebrated as part of the Year of Scotland’s Coast and Waters.”

Author: Joanne Milne


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