Hopes are high that a 100ft monument in Dingwall could open to the public this year as community figures look to capitalise on the region's tourist boom.
Dingwall Community Council believes the imposing Mitchell Hill tower, which offers unrivalled panoramic views for miles around, could be the key to grabbing a slice of the action from both of these visitor success stories.
Plans to offer supporters the chance to sponsor a step of the internal staircase leading to a viewing platform at the top have already excited interest. And volunteers have come forward to offer escorted tours for visitors.
Highland Council, which looks after the memorial to one of the county’s most famous sons, Major General Sir Hector Macdonald, had previously dragged its feet over the proposals, concerned about its health and safety liability for the structure.
However, the community council has maintained pressure by making its own health and safety assessment and getting feedback from local fire and rescue personnel.
Dingwall-based SNP MSP Kate Forbes has also thrown her weight behind the project saying she would like to see it open "sooner rather than later" and declaring it a community priority for 2018.
Community councillor Jack Shepherd, who is a health and safety consultant, said local fire chiefs were "comfortable" that the tower could be evacuated in the event of an emergency.
He said: "I was born here and I see the town starting to stagnate a bit. People tend not to stop in the town but to carry on through. There’s definitely a potential for coach tours from the Invergordon cruise liners to offer visits to the monument and I understand the new GlenWyvis Distillery is also keen to associate itself with it. There are no problems which can’t be solved."
Fellow community councillor Sara-Lynn Thain said: "We do appreciate that Highland Council doesn’t have the resources to fund any remedial works or improvements to the structure but the community council are considering other funding and have made some significant steps towards getting the monument open for the public since we were initially told it was unsafe and not fit to open by the Highland Council.
"Kate Forbes MSP is supporting this and we are hoping to get it open with a team of volunteers in the summer. We will be in touch with other groups in the town to see if we can work together to form a volunteer rota."
Ms Forbes said: "It would be a shame if the monument was still closed this time next year, considering the potential it has to draw visitors to the area and open up local history for us all to enjoy. I know that Dingwall Community Council has been working really hard to drive this project forward."