Suilven Path Restoration, Scotland

This iconic community owned mountain rises dramatically from arguably the most spectacular scenery in Scotland. Its ancient geological features are recognised within Scotland’s first European Geopark. A 2.5km section of the route to Suilven must be restored to conserve its geological heritage while sustaining the access to this remote and wild mountain that draws visitors from far and wide. Peat is exposed on the lower path while the final steep ascent is disintegrating rapidly into a deep gully.

The John Muir Trust and the Assynt Foundation are working together to repair Suilven’s path within the Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership Scheme. The repairs, subsequent maintenance and vegetation monitoring will minimise the impact of footfall on habitats and underlying soils. Ultimately the project aims to protect the landscape from erosion, to support the local community and to improve visitor experiences of this incredible mountain.

The Update

Update November 2017
Work began on site in mid-April 2017 with a team from Arran Footpaths making the first of many 2½ hour walks to the site to start work on the steep path on the north side of the mountain. Despite high winds and low cloud the team worked tirelessly to repair 200m of path on the steep ascent up the ridge, with highly technical stone work stabilising loose and crumbling sections of path.

A team from ACT Heritage also started work on the approach path from Glencanisp, which crosses some very wet and boggy ground. 100 tonnes of stone was airlifted in by helicopter! The team repaired or upgraded 902m of path to create a narrow meandering hill path to replace and vague and ever widening peaty trod. This included 12 water bars, 31 cross drains and 38 individual steps, along with 17m of revetment, 76m of pitching (continuous flights of stone steps) and 349m of ditching to aid drainage.

The second phase of this project will begin in April/May 2018.
News stories and blogs can be found on the John Muir Trust website as well as on the CALLP website HERE

Final update:
The final phase of this project is now complete and has involved:
– Helicopter lifts of over 100 tonnes of rock and 170 tonnes of gravel onto the slopes of the mountain;
– 20m of pitching, 22 cross drains, 7 water bars and 360m2 of landscaping; and
– The creation of a narrow but solid and durable path where before there was deep peat and a path width of up to 20m.
Contractors and local volunteers worked hard to make this possible, culminating in 878 contractor days and 42 volunteer days being undertaken.
Suilven was in the spotlight in early summer 2018 as a result of the release of the film Edie. This also helped increase public awareness of the footpath repairs with numerous press articles.

The blog can be viewed HERE
And a photo book with some amazing photographs of the work can be viewed HERE

Image Suilven. Image credit: JMT