When Daniel Defoe visited Elgin in 1717, he found it “a very agreeable place.” But these days, people living in Elgin want it to be more than “agreeable” – they want it to be a “compelling destination.”
Says David Urquhart who represents a number of the town’s development groups:
“We have 440 businesses in our high street but there is a lot of competition out there and in order to attract more people into the town, we’ve had to look on it like a product and analyse what we need to do to improve it.”
Other places may have a greater variety and a larger number of shops but few can complete with Elgin when it comes to history. Says David:
“We decided to compile a document detailing the historic points of interest in the town centre, and it runs to 80 pages which is impressive in anyone’s terms.”
The document formed the basis for Elgin’s “Castle to Cathedral to Cashmere” heritage trail, the title referencing two of the town’s most famous ancient monuments as well as the nearby Johnston’s cashmere centre which attracts 250,000 visitors a year.
Money has been made available through Elgin BID, Embrace Elgin and Elgin CARS (conservation area regeneration scheme) for improvements to shop fronts and buildings.
Now serious consideration is being given to a plan to convert two derelict properties in the town to business and community use, with ideas including space for pop-up shops and a visitor centre for the Heritage Trail.
“More and more people are coming around to the realisation that we have to be creative and work together to achieve our aims. For instance, we don’t have a dedicated visitor centre in Elgin but we now have six shops who also provide tourist information. And just recently a group of businesses in South Street got some great publicity when they rebranded themselves “Wedding Street” because they all specialise in wedding products.”
Embrace Elgin – www.embraceelgin.co.uk
Elgin Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme – www.elgincars.org.uk