New pathworks underway in Staffin

WORK on two new path projects is now underway in Staffin, as the latest phase in the Skye Ecomuseum heritage development.

Following a competitive tendering process, Staffin Community Trust (SCT) has awarded contracts in Flodigarry and Grealin to Highlands and islands’ firms.
Arran Footpaths Ltd, which recently completed a major contract at Glen Sligachan, for the John Muir Trust, this week started the upgrade of the popular Flodigary to Quiraing footpath, by Loch Langaig.

And the Aviemore contractors, McGowan Ltd, which built the new car park at the Fairy Pools for the Minginish Community Hall Association, will be constructing a path linking the townships of Grealin and Lealt.

The Flodigarry section was originally an old cart track used by local crofters to collect their peats but the surface has badly deteriorated in recent years through a lack of maintenance and heavy footfall. It is still used by the township to gather sheep from the hill grazings. 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), which was the title of the Allan Campbell McLean 1955 novel.

It could encourage locals and visitors alike to leave their vehicles at the new car park at Lealt and explore more of the area on foot. Both pathworks will be supervised by the experienced path contractor and project manager Donald MacKenzie, from Glenelg.

SCT’s Skye Ecomuseum is an outdoor museum with ‘no walls and a roofless sky’ and includes a footpath network across the district and interpretation telling the story of a dozen sites in Staffin.

SCT has a maintenance plan in place to look after the paths and sites, working with the public and private sector, with plans to start local work days later this year.

SCT chairman Sandy Ogilvie said: “The creation of both these paths continues the exciting developments within the Staffin Ecomuseum project. A project initiated to introduce and engage visitors, and locals alike, to the boundless beauty of our landscape and the historical importance of our local culture. I look forward to walking these new paths and enjoying the informative access they will give.”

Current condition of route in Flodigarry close to Loch Hasco.

The interpretation signage of the routes will be installed once the paths are completed. This will focus on the district’s industrial heritage, like the diatomite works which employed a large number of local men, and crofting, Gaelic, geology, palaeontology etc.

SCT is particularly keen to inform visitors that Staffin remains an active crofting community in Skye, where you are often only yards from valuable livestock. SCT wants to encourage visitors to act responsibly and be aware of their surroundings while they enjoy the landscape and fresh air.

For example, in Flodigarry, the township’s crofters have grown concerned in recent years at walkers letting their dogs off a lead while they climb the Loch Langaig path. Visitors will have their pets under control at the start of the walk but often release their pets further on. This has resulted in driving sheep down towards the roadside and away from their ‘hefted’ hill pastures, which have been grazed by the Flodigarry livestock for generations. SCT would like to thank the Flodigarry and Lealt Townships, and the Kilmuir Estate for permission for the path works.

The ecomuseum is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Coastal Communities Fund and SSE Sustainable Development Fund.