by Colin Campbell
AMERICA’S leading newspaper, the New York Times, with an online worldwide readership in the hundreds of millions, this week featured the Highlands as one of the best places to visit in 2021.
That’s an uplifting accolade at a time when we’re dealing with a harsh winter in the midst of a pandemic.
The author’s opinion of the region could hardly have been more impressive.
Topped by a headline: “Just absolutely magical – I can’t use that word enough to describe it”, an excerpt from the article stated: “During the trip, we were driving on the NC500 and came upon this vista of snow-capped mountains perfectly reflected in the loch.
“There are those moments when you’re traveling — I call them 100-percent moments — and this was one of them. As soon as we’re able to safely travel again, the Highlands will be one of the first places we’ll go.
“We’ll catch the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness, visit Cairngorms National Park, and stay at The Fife Arms. I’ll go to the Isle of Jura’s whisky distilleries, and go on long, blustery walks in the rain. This has been a distressing time, but I hope that we can all learn to really love and appreciate where we’re from.”
We can well do with publicity like that offering a perspective of how our area looks to a visitor writing for a hugely influential publication, at a downbeat time like this.
I was chatting on Sunday to a retired relative in the south who said that what he and his wife miss most of all during this lockdown, which is likely to be a lengthy one, is the chance to get away for breaks, either for a weekend or a week or a fortnight, in their favoured destinations across the UK.
There will be many people like him.
All city hotels are closed and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Everyone knows what a drastically bad time it’s been for those struggling to keep their businesses alive in the hospitality sector.
But if the vaccine rollout goes to schedule then people will be able finally to get on the move again, within the UK at least.
And it’s not being over-optimistic to believe that as a result Inverness and the Highlands could see a massive summer influx of visitors from home and abroad.
The city in the years leading up to the barren last 12 months was already a mecca for visitors, with hotels and guest houses in the summer unable to fit everyone one in.
It may seem a distant prospect in mid-January but Inverness this summer is more than likely to surpass even that, and potentially to have the busiest tourist season yet seen.
Unfortunately some businesses that have gone bust will not be around to enjoy the benefits.
But many will.
“Just absolutely magical – I can’t use that word enough to describe it” said the NYT of the Highlands.
As an accolade and an incentive to visit this area in the summer months ahead, it doesn’t get any better than that.