The bridges will improve safety and access at the Glenbrittle site, which has become one of the most popular island destinations after appearing in a swell of ‘must do’ guides and social media posts.
The work comes as the island copes with the impact of ‘bucket list’ tourism with the Fairy Pools one of the ‘Big Five’ draws on the island, along with Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, The Fairy Pools, Quiraing and Neist Point.
The new 11-metre long steel clad and timber bridges, which will avoid the need to use the stepping stones over the water, follow on from the 140-space car park that was built close to the Fairy Pools last year after the community raised concerns about the road being blocked with visitor’s vehicles.
Dougie Baird, CEO of Outdoor Access Trust Scotland, which is leading the project, said: “The Fairy Pools are a much loved and enjoyed tourist attraction for visitors all across the globe, the newly installed bridges will make a huge difference in improving accessibility for visitors, particularly for when the burn is high and difficult for many to cross to reach the Pools.
“People will now be able to safely enjoy them no matter the weather, especially those with less confidence or mobility issues, and enjoy the scenery. This and the other ongoing work as part of SISP is vastly improving the visitor experience to Skye’s special sites.”
Around 13,000 people visited the Fairy Pools in 2006 with the figure climbing to 82,000 in 2015 and 180,000 visitors in 2019, a figure which was described as “unsustainable” at the time by those living in Glenbrittle.
As visitor increased, locals started to litter pick the glen and dismantle “stone stacks” left behind by tourists, given concerns that the stacks , which some claim encourage creativity and mindfulness, are bad for the environment by causing erosion and upsetting natural wildlife corridors.
There were also ongoing reports of vehicles parking on verges, delivery drivers refusing to go into the glen and local concerns surrounding access for emergency services, including Mountain Rescue.
The huge growth in visitors comes as the nature of tourism changes on Skye amid a growth in day trips and quick tours of the key island attractions, with it not uncommon for visitors to leave for the mainland again at night.
A ‘slow tourism’ strategy was launched on Skye in 2019 to urge visitors to ‘slow down, see less and experience more.”
The installation of the bridges comes as part of the Skye Iconic Sites Project (SISP), which will also see the habitat restoration and development of land close to the Quiraing and Old Man of Storr to manage visitor numbers.
Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) runs the iconic sites project, with is part of a Scottish project, valued at just under £9m, to invest in the Highlands and Islands to provide more and better-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural and cultural heritage assets.
The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund is led by NatureScot and is part funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).