A small group of local people interested in tourism, cycling and the environment got together before Christmas and started to develop an idea which if it succeeds will bring a new eco-tourism initiative to Nairn in the summer. It will use a colourful, fun and eco-friendly type of transport that will also improve the well-being of many of the town’s elderly and housebound. And it’s an activity that additionally will provide healthy seasonal employment for several fit young people.
The answer the group came up with is ‘Riviera Rickshaw Rides’ – with the ‘Riviera’ reference being what the Moray Firth coast was known as - the ‘Riviera of the North’. The group hopes to bring back a little of that 20’s and 30’s romance in its branding.
The fledgling organisation, will be a not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity whose main aim will be to promote of eco-tourism, especially the pedal-powered variety in the Nairn area.
‘Its eco-tourism with social benefits’, added David Munro, who is a local professional tour guide who founded the Forres-based social enterprise Moray Wastebusters, ‘ as the aim is to also support the elderly, less able and housebound in the town to improve their well-being by taking them out for rides in the fresh air. The tourist service will help to subsidise that part of the service.
An iconic type of transport throughout Asia and now operating in many towns and cities throughout the UK rickshaws could become a colourful feature to the town’s quieter roads and paths leisurely carrying their passengers around Nairn’s attractive coastal scenery and countryside.
The plan is to operate two rickshaws specifically for tourists and one customised power- assisted rickshaw for use by Nairn’s less able residents. After receiving the appropriate training the customised rickshaw could be ridden by volunteers as well as the professional riders to ensure that as many as possible would get a chance to go outside on a sunny day, get some fresh air and maybe visit a seafront cafe for a cup of tea.
Having had an enthusiastic reception from the care homes and sheltered housing units we are just beginning to promote the idea to all the accommodation providers in Nairn. The ones we have spoken to so far have been enthusiastic and see it as a welcome addition to the town’s tourist facilities.
Many tourist whether its a middle-aged couple staying in the Muthu Newton, the Golf View Hotels or parents a toddler staying at the caravans park will enjoy using the colourful rickshaws which will travel slowly and safely around Nairn’s quieter roads and paths to allow their passengers to savour Nairn’s attractive scenery at a gentle pace.
The riders will simultaneously deliver a commentary about some of Nairn’s fascinating history from small fishing community to Victorian health resort.
We also hope to provide regular walking tours, which will add another dimension to Nairn’s tourist activities.
‘The response from the care homes and sheltered housing units has been very enthusiastic and we’re looking forward to the day the service will start - hopefully by the early summer. I’ll be giving presentations to the care homes over the coming weeks to let them know more about the service and what it entails’ added David.
Rickshaw Rides is based on a Danish organisation that is already operating in some towns in Scotland called ‘Cycling Without Age’ (www.cyclingwithoutage.scot) but the main difference is that while CWA relies entirely on volunteers we will be asking a donation to help cover the wage of the rider and help make the service more sustainable. If people want to volunteer that’s fine and we’ll be happy to train them but in terms of not disappointing any residents we felt it was better to use both staff and volunteers. We’ll be closely monitoring how that works in practice.
The enterprise will operate out of Leopold Street’ David added, ‘the location is ideal because we effectively have a high-street location with potential to develop a small tourist hub here’. We are currently exploring with VisitNairn and VisitScotland the possibility of being a Visitor Information Point where tourists will be able to come to the office to get information about everything that’s happening locally.
Through using the rickshaw service nad providing electric and mountain bike hire our aim is to promote Nairn and the surrounding area as an eco-tourist destination –we have a beautiful area with above-average sunshine, a stunning coastline, the UK’s biggest coastal forest and an attractive rolling hinterland with rugged moors- all dotted with attractive villages, medieval castles and forts. The beauty of it all is that it has hundreds of miles of relatively flat roads running through the coastal landscape –ideal to promote cycling in its many forms.
David Munro - Project Coordinator - STGA Green Badge Tour Guide, Founder of Moray Wastebusters -Fundraiser
Kevin Grant - Owner of ‘Bikespokes’ - Mobile bicycle engineer – bicycle hire operator
Wendy Springett – Auldearn – based crafstperson and artist.
Advisor - Hugh Grant – Tour Guide, Owner of Inverness Tours, Author