The burnt-out hide. Photo: Simon Ritchie/NatureScot

The burnt-out hide. Photo: Simon Ritchie/NatureScot

A nature reserve manager said he is shocked and saddened after an award-winning bird hide at a popular Scottish nature reserve was destroyed by fire.

The structure was destroyed by the blaze on Thursday evening, which is believed to have been started deliberately.

The wooden hide was constructed on the shores of Loch Leven near Kinross in 2011 and had won awards for its architectural design.

NatureScot, the Scottish Government’s advisory body on the outdoors, said the Mill Hide, behind the Todd and Duncan textile factory, was a much-loved place for locals and visitors alike to enjoy some of the best views of the loch and the large numbers of birds congregating on the water. Loch Leven is Scotland’s most visited National Nature Reserve.

NatureScot’s reserve manager Neil Mitchell said: “When I went out to the site this morning, I was shocked and saddened to see what has happened to the hide.

“It’s been completely destroyed and what’s worse is we believe the fire was started deliberately.

“The hide is hugely popular and over the years has brought so many people joy, allowing them to experience and connect with nature at the reserve. It was a beautiful building that has won several awards, and many visitors will have snapped views from it. Sadly we’ve now had to fence off the site for public safety.

“While it’s gutting to see it destroyed, the response from the community and the general public has been amazing. Given this birdwatching site’s popularity and fantastic lochside location, we are determined to replace the hide as soon as possible.

“We would urge anyone with information about the fire to contact Police Scotland.”

The bird hide had won awards. Photo: Lorne Gill/NatureScot

The bird hide had won awards. Photo: Lorne Gill/NatureScot

The blaze took place between 7pm and 8pm.

Chief Inspector Graham Binnie of Police Scotland said: “Starting fires deliberately is reckless, dangerous and risks lives. In this case, the bird hide has been completely, and unnecessarily, destroyed.

“We are investigating this as a deliberate act and would ask anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in the area on Thursday evening, or has information to identify those responsible, to report this to us as soon as possible.

“Those with information should contact Police Scotland on 101 and quote incident number 0573 of 19 February.”

The hide was situated on the Loch Leven Heritage Trail, visited by more than 250,000 people each year and was one of the most popular parts of the site. The bird hide won the award for the best low-cost project at the 2012 Scottish Design Awards.

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