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The Gairloch Chandlery, Pier Road, Gairloch, Wester Ross, Scotland

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Ross shire Journal

Friday 7 March, 2008

A WESTER Ross marine cruise business is hoping the process of a recent planning application will be plain sailing.

Gairloch-based Hebridean Voyages, the only company that offers marine bird cruises in the Outer Hebrides, is hoping for a change in the winds as it awaits the go-ahead to alter a support building to provide shipshape facilities, including a brand new purpose-built changing room for its visitors.

Currently the business operates from the Chandlery – a centre offering informative services such as displays and computer profiles on a variety of marine wildlife. Administration runs from the building and visitors have to change into the protective gear there too. It is then a 200 yard walk to the two boats at Gairloch’s pier.

Mary Davies, who is in charge of logistics and administration, said, “The building we are renting at the Chandlery is just not big enough. It’s a shop area as well and there’s just not enough space to get the visitors into the flotation suits – it’s just chaotic.

“Hopefully the changes will attract some more visitors as well as bring further business to the area.”

The building that has been submitted for planning is located at the pier and pontoons where the boats are moored. The owners are hoping the changes will make the experience safer and more comfortable for their customers.

Nick Davies, head of Hebridean Voyages Ltd, said, “The original building is quite a long walk and it’ll be easier for the passengers to get to the boats from the new building. If you have 26 or 36 people walking along the road trying to get on the boats it can become a safety issue, especially with the little kids. They get so excited they forget they are walking on the road and there have been a lot of near-misses.

“It’ll also mean disabled people will have easier and safer access to the boats too. It’ll certainly make our life easier and will certainly be better for the visitors,” said Mr Davies.

Hebridean Voyages was established in 1996 as a father and son team by Barry and Nick Davies. After the death of his father last year, Mr Davies has kept the business within the family with his mother, Mary, and his cousin James McCall, who joined as skipper in 2007. They are hoping the new facilities will be completed for the summer tourist season.

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