We know how important it is for communities to have the opportunity to visit successful examples of community co-operatives and see first-hand how it could work for them. Thanks to the Prince’s Countryside Fund, in October we were able to take two groups of volunteers to visit a community regeneration initiative in the Scottish Highlands, as part of our Seeing is Believing project.

Volunteers from Aberlemno in Angus and Comrie in Perthshire visited the Smuggler’s Hostel in the village of Tomintoul, perched at 1,132 ft in the Cromdale Hills. The Smuggler’s Hostel (www.thesmugglershostel.co.uk) was taken over by the community in 2012 when the Scottish Youth Hostel Association announced its closure. Since then, under community management, the number of visitor bed-nights has more than doubled, and the business is making a net income contribution, which helps subsidise the operating costs of Tomintoul’s visitor information centre and local museum (also community-run).

These projects are part of a wider long-term regeneration initiative led by Tomintoul & Glenlivet Development Trust, who hosted the visit, and were able to give in-depth detail on the hostel’s operation, financial performance, and business development strategy. Both groups found the visit inspiring and extremely useful for planning their own community tourism projects.

Over the last two years Seeing is Believing project has worked with 37 communities in Scotland and enabled 23 of them to see and meet other inspirational community projects.