11 December 2023

Latest stage of engagement around learning at Macduff Marine Aquarium Levelling Up project

Aberdeenshire Council has launched the latest stage of engagement around learning at the award-winning Macduff Marine Aquarium as part of its Levelling Up-funded development.

The project is being made possible thanks to a successful bid to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund for development of cultural and heritage opportunities in Macduff and Peterhead.

A total of 10 projects in Scotland were allocated more than £177 million from round two of the Levelling Up Fund which will enable projects to create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people’s pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally.

The “Cultural Tides: North Sea Connections in Aberdeenshire” project will focus on the renovation and extension of Macduff Marine Aquarium and the development of a cultural quarter in Peterhead centred around the vacant Arbuthnot House.

Live Life Aberdeenshire (LLA) – which operates the aquarium – has been hosting a programme of public engagement around the project which has helped shape the plans and ensured it provides both the local community and the wider area with the resource they want to enjoy.

The latest survey is around learning at the aquarium, with LLA seeking feedback from our communities and community groups, young people in education and teaching staff.

It runs until February 16 and can be found here:

An earlier phase of engagement has just ended, focused on the catering offer and the outside space around the aquarium. Natural play spaces, biodiversity and picnic areas were important for most respondents, in relation to redevelopment of the outdoor space.

For the catering offer, use of local produce and an offer that is available from late morning to early evening came out top of most lists.

A key priority for many was the inclusion of a Changing Places facility which now features in the latest plans, and will make the aquarium more accessible for everyone to enjoy a day out.

Reflecting on the latest plans, the distinctive round aquarium building will be expanded to accommodate increased display and activity space.

The building will have a second storey added to create a café/restaurant with magnificent views to the Moray Firth and inside to the central kelp tank. External viewing decks will provide great vantage points for wildlife spotting. The café/restaurant will be run separately from the aquarium, offering a business opportunity for a hospitality provider.

Inside, the central tank, general layout and displays will remain, but the exhibits will be upgraded and include exciting new experiential features and interpretation. The visitor experience will feel fresh and innovative, whilst maintaining the aquarium’s essential elements that have been so enduringly popular.

Education and conservation are at the heart of the aquarium’s operations and the expansion will provide space for a lobster hatchery and a dedicated learning room to allow hands on activities and events for learners of all ages. The lobster hatchery will see lobster larvae being grown for release into the wild to boost wild populations, be a focus of interest and support the lobster fishery in years to come.

Macduff Marine Aquarium has been operated by Aberdeenshire Council for more than 25 years and welcomes around 50,000 visitors per year, contributing significantly to the local area’s economy and tourism offer. It highlights native marine life and the central tank design and local exhibits create a one-of-a-kind experience within the UK.

Building on its success with investment in the attraction has long been part of the regeneration strategy for Macduff and the Levelling Up Fund has presented a unique opportunity for the aquarium, Macduff and the area.

Council Leader Cllr Gillian Owen said: “Investment in the aquarium and its immediate surroundings will be a real driver for economic growth thanks to this Levelling Up funding, helping to re-energise the town and contribute positively to the local economy and community. I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to actively participate so far in our public engagement events and online surveys as this really has helped us design the attraction you want to see and use for many years to come.”

Deputy Leader and chair of the council’s Communities Committee, Cllr Anne Stirling, added: “Macduff Marine Aquarium is a much-loved visitor attraction and this project will enable us to sensitively develop the facility while maintaining its charm, expand upon its important educational role and really develop the aquarium’s full potential. That’s why it’s so important that community groups, pupils and, of course, our teaching staff have their say on the new learning space which will allow even more opportunities to explore marine, environmental and climate themes.”

Following a visit to the aquarium earlier this year to see progress on the project, Levelling up Secretary Michael Gove said: “UK Government money for Macduff Aquarium will help expand the site and allow more families and visitors to see the wonderful marine life. It was great to see how levelling up funding will help increase tourism, deliver jobs and provide better facilities for the whole community to enjoy.”