£200k to keep Suilven mountain paths in peak condition

A MAJOR programme of path repairs and upgrade work has begun on Suilven, Assynt's famous community-owned mountain.

Suilven mountain. Picture: Contributed

Due to increasing popularity, fragile soils and harsh climate, the most popular approach to Suilven, beginning at Glencanisp, is rapidly deteriorating.

The restoration project will set out to repair an eroded 2.5km section of the route to prevent further damage and maintain public access, and protect the rare habitat of peat bog and wet heath, along with the plants and wildlife it supports.

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It will aim to create a high quality, but still natural-looking path.

The Suilven Path Project is a partnership between the Assynt Foundation, which owns the mountain and the John Muir Trust, which is managing the work, as part of Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership Scheme.

The work will be carried by two contractors with strong local links to the North West Highlands: Arran Footpaths, which will carry out hand-built work on the steep ascent to the summit, and ATC Heritage, which will work on the approach stretch, using an excavator to quarry gravel onsite.

A helicopter will be used to fly in around 100 tonnes of stone for building cross drains and steps.

The Landscape Partnership Scheme has been crucial in pulling together the project and drawing in vital money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, while the John Muir Trust has so far raised over £75,000 towards the work, including £18,000 which it won in a Euro-wide online poll in 2015.

Chris Goodman, paths officer for the John Muir Trust said: “This is one of Scotland’s best-loved mountains and we’ll be treating it with the respect it deserves. We will only on those sections of the path where there is erosion – and we will make sure the repairs are carried out in a sensitive manner so that it blends in well with the landscape.

This work should help ensure that both the spectacular views of the mountain and the enjoyment of walking up its slopes are protected.”

The project will create around 10 jobs during the construction phases which will run through the late spring and early summer of 2017 and 2018.