Luss – helping it happen!
A visit to Luss is a great day out – a lovely village sitting on the banks of Loch Lomond with spectacular views over to Ben Lomond. A popular destination too – with over 260,000 people each week visiting. A very happy problem to have and it was very interesting to visit last month (March 2018) to find out more … all that is going on behind the scenes.
Granted a royal charter by King Robert the Bruce close to 700 years ago, Luss has remained in the same family ever since. Today, 120 people are employed by the company. It is a very diversified rural business. Yes, it is an estate, but it is home to many enterprises – 10 trading companies large and small that use the services of numerous local suppliers and contractors.
Farming and sustainable forestry are at its core. It may only account for around 12% of turnover, but it underpins all activities. Over recent years, the company has invested £8m in successful diversification – projects that are helping to ensure the sustainability not only of of Luss Estates but also the Luss community. These include green energy schemes, property development – including restoration and conservation work, hospitality, leisure and retail.
At the helm is CEO, Simon Miller. He’s responsible for managing the overall business and leading the team, but it is his work in creating new business opportunities combined with an awareness of the importance of the long-term stewardship of the land and local community that are fundamental to Luss’ growth and success.
In 2018, the projects Simon oversees split into two categories: those that focus on maintaining and growing local economic prosperity and those that concentrate on protecting the area’s natural environment. Some of these may be obvious – from farming and forestry to the management and protection of wildlife. Others? Perhaps not so.
There is a team of litter pickers! The benefits of being one of the world’s most iconic beauty spots has its challenges. Luss welcomes over 750,000 visitors every year – and too many still leave their rubbish behind. The Luss litter pickers are active in helping to maintain the landscape that visitors expect to see when they arrive and the whole team, including Simon, go out on the 1st Wednesday of every month to help keep the village tidy.
The Luss team is also working on ancient peatland restoration – hand in hand with national environmental agencies. Then there are educational projects with the Royal Highland Educational Trust and most recently with the StrawLUSS Loch Lomond campaign.
Luss Estates is also committed to working with local communities to help themselves. eg in Arrochar, they have leased the river to two local charitable development trusts for a Hydro scheme which was switched on in the middle of March 2018. It is a 40 year lease at £100 per year but in that time will raise over £5 million for the Arrochar and Tarbet Community Development Trust whose aim is to improve the quality of life for residents of Arrochar, Tarbet, Succoth and the surrounding area.
On growing the local economy, the work is year round. The estate supports entrepreneurship and will often challenge planning policies not only to help promote business growth but also to champion opportunities that will bring more families into the area. At the heart of this is their role in the Luss Strategic Development Framework for new housing.
Simon says: “Our main task is to preserve and enhance the area for future generations. Crucial steps in order to achieve this are to provide economic and employment opportunities and create new family housing. This is at the forefront of what we do, by investing in and developing our own enterprises, and encouraging others to invest in the local area and live here.”
Combined, their work is award-winning. In 2017, Luss Estates were recognised for their commitment to supporting Scotland’s rural economy as joint winners of the Rural Business category at #HelpingItHappen2017. Presented by Doddie Weir at an awards’ ceremony in Edinburgh, the accolade meant a great deal to the estate – and they have helped to launch #HelpingItHappen2018 – this year’s awards’ programme that will shine a light on rural successes across Scotland.
Looking at specific tourism projects – there are quite a few on Simon’s plate! It is crucial that the businesses created are able to survive on their own merits. That is certainly happening with those that carry the Luss brand: the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel hosts guests from across Scotland and the rest of the UK as well as considerable numbers from further afield, including the USA. As part of Luss’ commitment to sustainability, all the hotel’s hot water and heating is provided by an environmentally friendly biomass boiler – and further investment has been made on the hotel through the winter to expand the bar area and improve the library.
The Inverbeg Holiday Park has been operated by Luss Estates for almost 20 years. One of a handful of 5* accommodation providers in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, the park has a stunning setting. Family friendly, it provides visitors with great facilities and unique access to Loch Lomond. Then there’s the Luss Seafood Bar, the Filling Station, the General Store and The Clan Shop – in the oldest building in the village. Beyond the bricks and mortar are businesses providing experiences. There is a raft of them in and around Luss – and the estate works with many to help make the area a stronger draw for visitors year round. The Estate is also looking at further opportunites to increase the leisure & retail offering – potentially around increasing the camping & caravanning opportunities now that wild camping has been banned in the National Park. And in 2018, they will be improving the Activity Hub which is in the Car Park and you will soon be able to buy tickets for all the adventure activity providers as well as the new faerie trail.
There’s work in the detail too. Three years ago there was no signage nor a guidebook to Luss. Luss Estates works with the local Luss Development Trust to help them make money so that they can get match funding. As a result, the signage has been improved and the guidebook has become the biggest earner with all the profits going back to the Development Trust. Further enhancements to the visitors’ experience include ongoing improvements to parking facilities and enhancing accessibility for all. This includes work in supporting and maintaining the Three Lochs Way, the Luss Trail and the new Faerie Trail.
There’s an incredible array of activities and adventures to be enjoyed in and around the village of Luss – right in the heart of the National Park: from places to stay and eat to many opportunities to experience the great outdoors. Follow this link to the estate’s own site – and also check out these links for more.
Facts & Figures
Luss Estates covers some 45,000 acres – including 50% of Loch Lomond.
Thanks for reading!