Suilven, the iconic mountain of Assynt, has become something of a victim of its own popularity, suffering serious path erosion on the heavily-used Glencanisp route. A restoration project now seeks to stop the rot.
At a total cost of around £200,000 the path rebuilding project will set out to repair an eroded 2.5km section of the route to prevent further damage and maintain public access, and to protect the rare habitat of peat bog and wet heath.
The aim, say the organisations behind the work, is to end up with a high quality but still natural-looking trail.
Funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage, The European Outdoor Conservation Association, The Scottish Mountaineering Trust and donations from the general public through the John Muir Trust Suilven path appeal, the Suilven Path Project is a partnership between the Assynt Foundation, which owns the mountain and the John Muir Trust (JMT), which is managing the work, as part of Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership Scheme.
“This is one of Scotland’s best-loved mountains and we’ll be treating it with the respect it deserves" said Chris Goodman, Paths Officer at the JMT.
"We will only [work] 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. Thanks to support from players of the National Lottery, this work should help ensure that both the spectacular views of the mountain and the enjoyment of walking up its slopes are protected.”
Starting in late spring 2017 and running through to 2018, the work will be done 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 also fly in around 100 tonnes of stone for building cross drains and steps.
The project will create around 10 jobs during the construction phases. As well as those directly involved in the path work there will also be opportunities for local artists and writers to be involved in documenting the work, say the JMT.