Major work got underway this week on the West Highland Way at Loch Lomond, where a tough and adventurous loch-side deviation from the main trail is being re-shaped to match the rather tamer standards found along the rest of this popular long distance path.
Forestry Commission Scotland is carrying out the £750k project – backed by the Scottish Government’s ‘shovel ready’ fund - as part of a wider path upgrade drive in partnership with Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority. Work is expected to be completed on the WHW by April 2014.
Earlier this year work was carried out on the steps linking Balmaha to Conic hill and the steps at Strath Cashel. Sections of the trail linking Balmaha to Rowardennan will now be improved too.
But the most significant change being made is an overhaul of the 5km loch shore trail that runs from just north of Ptarmigan Lodge, and past Rowchoish bothy. This is the infamous lower path, a testing alternative to the gentler and far more popular high level route that until now has been renowned for its dense woods, bogs, fallen trees, steep little climbs and scrambly rocky sections high above the cold water of the loch.
For a route description of both the high road and the low road on the Loch Lomond section of the West Highland Way see this UKH Route Card.
More adventurous walkers may lament the upgrade of the lower path as the taming of a favourite challenge, but the powers that be argue the route in its present state is eroded and unsafe. They claim that making it more user friendly will 'improve the quality of the visitor experience and help to secure its long-term future as a tourism destination.'
Claire Travis, Recreation Manager for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said:
'It’s fantastic to see the upgrade work starting on the West Highland Way and the lower path being restored to use. This increases the opportunities for day walkers from Rowardennan and allows everyone to experience more of the native woodland along the shores of Loch Lomond.'
'We have 80,000 walkers who come and enjoy the West Highland Way every year and this significant investment acknowledges the important contribution this iconic long distance walking route makes to the Scottish economy.'
Liz Walker, for the Forestry Commission’s team in the area, added;
'This is a major and long needed upgrade of some sections of the route that will make it an even more attractive and enjoyable proposition for visitors and walkers.'
'It’s taken a while longer to get started than we’d hoped but given that this is a Special Area of Conservation we’ve made sure that we have everything in place to do this job properly and with absolutely minimal impact. We have completed the ecological surveys and bat surveys, have all the necessary approvals and permissions in place and have completed our preparation work.'
Special techniques will be used to minimise the impact on the surrounding environment as much as possible, they say. As well as opting for hand build techniques and ground protection mats, the team will also use a ‘walking excavator’ that minimises any disturbance. Materials for constructing the path will also be shipped in by boat from the National Trust Scotland site north of Rowardennan to agreed landing sites, which will also be protected by matting.