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Cashing out: Village tourism fears as last ATM withdrawn

Durness' economy relies on visitors spending money, but the community no longer has a cash machine.

The last cash machine has been removed from the village of Durness. Google 2019/STV

By Iain Ramage

Durness is about as far north as it gets on mainland Scotland, with an economy almost entirely reliant on tourism.

But now those who keep the community alive fear for its future after its only 24-hour cash machine was removed.

The nearest ATM is more than 50 miles away and unreliable internet connections means card payments are not always possible.

For natives the local post office offers cash withdrawal at certain times, but the facility is inaccessible to foreign tourists, whose cards aren’t accepted.

The blow comes hot on the heals of Durness losing its VisitScotland tourist information centre and business owners aren’t happy.

Some have even loaned money to visitors so they can enjoy everything the picturesque village has to offer.

Fiona Mackay, who runs Mackay’s Rooms bed and breakfast, said: “It’s quite a big problem because it’s just another nail in the coffin for a basic service in the community that’s trying very hard to provide a quality offering to visitors as well as people that actually reside here.

“Yesterday, I had to lend a French guest £40 so she could have a couple of trips locally and she’ll transfer it back to me when she gets home.

“And two weeks ago I had to give a guy a tenner to get the bus out; I’m still waiting for that back.”

The Bank of Ireland, which inherited the cash machine from another bank, chose not to renew the contract in an era of increasing online shopping.

The nearest alternatives are 53 miles away in Lochinver and there appears to be no easy solution in an isolated place.

James Findlay, co-owner of chocolatier Cocoa Mountain, said: “We have a card machine in store but it has gone down and our internet can be patchy here.

“And the signal can be quite bad at times and the card machines just off and we just have to accept card machines or go back to the old manual payment system.”

Highland councillor Hugh Morrison is determined to ensure tourists know Durness is still open for their business.

The hotel owner said: “Maybe, moving forward, through websites we need to say we are open.

“It’s just that if you’re passing through Ullapool, Lochinver or Thurso, take some cash with you. It’s important that Durness is still open.”

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