MAJOR restoration work on a historic and popular route in Staffin has been completed.
The upgrade of the badly eroded Flodigarry to Quiraing footpath, by Loch Langaig, was carried out by a team of path contractors from the Isle of Arran.
It was originally an old cart track used by crofters to collect their peats and is still used to gather sheep from the hill grazings. However, the path surface had badly deteriorated in recent years through blocked ditches, water damage and heavy footfall and was damaging the protected landscape.
A hardy team from Arran Footpaths and Forestry Ltd has now completed the contract, which started in January despite facing tough work conditions including snow, sub-zero temperatures, heavy rain and high winds.
It involved extensive re-surfacing, ditching and pitching to keep water off the route, which is key to every path’s durability, and a significant amount of landscaping. Scottish Natural Heritage gave its consent for the works to be carried out as the area lies within a Special Site of Scientific Interest.
The work is part of Staffin Community Trust’s (SCT) Skye Ecomuseum. It is an outdoor museum with ‘no walls and a roofless sky’ and includes a footpath network across the district, a viewing platform, parking and physical interpretation illustrating the area’s special features and heritage.
The new surface will take time to firm up and dry out while the landscaping work will be more evident once the grass starts growing.
SCT chairman Sandy Ogilvie said: “The poor surface and damage to the landscape has been highlighted to the trust for several years and we’re is very pleased at the completion of the works. A lot of time and effort went into submitting the project funding application, the tender process and managing the works. We are thankful to the Flodigarry township and Kilmuir Estate for their support from the outset and are sure the route will be well used by crofters, local residents and walkers for years to come.”
Scott Murdoch, the owner of Arran Footpaths and Forestry Ltd, said: “Arran Footpaths were delighted to be part of this project. Skye is very special place and to be able to improve access and prevent erosion in one of its most beautiful locations was an honour. We appreciate the effort that went into getting this project off the ground and are delighted to have been able to successfully complete a good quality footpath that sits well within its surroundings.”
“We established a good rapport with our machine sub-contractor Ian MacDonald, of Staffin Groundworks, who helped us greatly with his skills and local knowledge.”
SCT is respectfully asking all users, particularly those with ATVs and push bikes, to avoid using the new surface until it beds down. And SCT is also reminding path users, both visitors and locals, that Staffin remains an active crofting community, particularly with lambing now underway. The route to the Quiraing, and indeed all of the Trotternish Ridge, is croftland grazed by valuable sheep and cattle. Dogs must be kept under control at all times.
A new stile was installed by the Arran contractors which has a pull-up lever so that dog owners can usher their animals safely through. The Flodigarry crofters had grown alarmed at the damage to the stock fences which were damaged by walkers trying to get their dogs through.
Meanwhile, McGowan Ltd has now started constructing another historic Staffin route, linking the townships of Grealin and Lealt.
The Grealin route includes part of an old railway track used when the diatomite industry was running in Lealt and has views across to Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh Ruadh (Hill of The Red Fox). The line was shown in an Ordnance Survey map in the 1890s.
When the 900-metre long path is opened, SCT will be encouraging walkers to leave their vehicles at the Lealt gorge car park.
A full ecomuseum activity programme is being delivered by SCT’s Angus Murray, who is the project manager. It will involve working closely with Skye primary schools (including Staffin and Kilmuir pupils) and Portree High on an educational pack learning about wildlife, geology, heritage and the environment. Angus will also be organising more health walks for older Staffin residents using the path.
The ecomuseum is supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, Coastal Communities Fund and SSE Sustainable Development Fund.