AN iconic red phone box on the south side of Loch Ness is to be given its own birthday party by residents determined to keep it.
The working public pay phone, just off the B862 at Errogie, is fast becoming a stopping off point for tourists, complete with its own mini lending library, a cuddly teddy, decorations, guest book, Facebook page and even an energy bar left out for hungry travellers.
Alex Sutherland shares its care with another resident and they have decorated its interior throughout the year, including for Christmas and Hallow’een. For a time a family of gnomes also moved in, to the delight of passers-by.
Local artist Ros Rowell has added her touch by putting her Thistle painting on display and a silver-framed notice appeals to visitors — "If we don’t use this phone box, BT will remove it. So please make that call."
"We are very proud of our phone box," said Mr Sutherland, a former Stratherrick and Foyers Community Council chairman who lives at Allt na Goibhre near Errogie.
"We’re thinking of starting a children’s section to the library and I am also considering holding a barbecue, a dance or ceilidh for it. In fact I think a mid-summer birthday party would be ideal!"
The residents believe it is the smallest lending library in the world — although other boxes throughout the country have been similarly transformed — and it is located in one of the most scenic and peaceful straths in the Highlands.
"It is very popular with tourists, especially cyclists, with many people stopping to sign the guest book," said the 66-year-old.
"We don’t have very good phone reception here so it is good to have it, but we want to keep it anyway because it is a local landmark."
Two years ago a storm blew off the phone box door and the community feared for its future but BT did replace it.
The cast iron box, at the junction of Inverfarigaig road, is popular with geocachers — treasure hunters using GPS to seek out hidden caches in the Highlands.
Its Facebook page records tourists’ joy at finding the hidden gem on their travels, with photos of fiddlers from New Zealand and Australia, tourists from France and its own ‘first footers’ at New Year.
"I hope BT will keep this phone box as it is the nicest I have ever seen," said one fan, Eduardo from Brazil.