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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Best Foot Forward for Old Man of Storr Footpath Improvement Project

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Works on Phase 2 of the footpath improvement programme at the world-famous Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye are progressing well.

Following the success of the Phase 1 pathworks at the Storr visitor site in 2019/20, a second successful bid (£151,343) to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (administered by VisitScotland) was made for further path improvements to the area higher up the site, an area known as the “Photographer’s Knoll”.

Match funding was provided by the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspections Department (SGRPID) to the tune of £65,784.46.

The project was tendered by Highland Council’s Property Team and awarded to Cairngorm Wilderness Contracts Ltd.

Works began on site on 13 June 2022, and very good progress has been made to date, with signage clearly diverting walkers from the works taken place.

The path on this section is being hand-built, with tremendous attention to detail, to ensure a similar high-quality finish to that achieved on the works already completed.

The contract is for 17 weeks and is expected to be completed by the middle of January 2023. 

Works are being managed by the Highland Council’s Property Team, who have appointed the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) to administer the project and provide Clerk of Works services.

As per the previous contract on Storr, the Highland Council is working closely with partners such as The Skye Iconic Sites Partnership (SISP), Nature Scot, Visit Scotland, SkyeConnect, Staffin Community Trust, community councils, local trusts and voluntary organisations; crofters/tenants and local businesses.

Chair of Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans, said:

“It is fantastic to see the progression being made at the Old Man of Storr which will further enhance the visitor experience at one of Highland’s most popular tourism destinations.

“The pathworks project to upgrade the existing footpath will help reduce erosion and vegetation loss.”

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said:

“The Storr is one of the iconic sites on Skye and has seen a large increase in visitor numbers in recent years, so it is encouraging to see these improvement works getting underway, as they will make a real difference to the area for the enjoyment of visitors and locals alike.

“I am pleased that the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund has been able to help make the site more resilient, protecting the stunning landscape and improving the visitor experience for all.”

He added:

“As well as visiting iconic sites such as The Storr, we would also encourage people to stay a bit longer and explore the many hidden gems and fascinating culture and history on Skye to get the most from this amazing island.

“Tourism is a force for good, it creates jobs, sustains communities and contributes significantly to local economies.”

Ewen MacPherson, Senior Agricultural Officer, Rural Payments and Inspections Division, said:

“Over the past few years there has been an increasing amount of habitat damage on the upper reaches of the Storr as more and more informal routes were created largely due to a lack of an obvious defined route over challenging terrain.

“The impact of this has not only been unsightly but also led to increased erosion and a reduction to the quality of the sheep grazings.

“This new path is the final link in completing the network of upgraded paths in the locality of the Storr and its completion in a few months’ time will improve the experience for everyone.”

He added:

“It will not only look better, but it will be safer and habitat surrounding the new paths will revert to being looked after by the grazing sheep.

“Going forward I am very pleased that provision has also been put in place to maintain the paths on an annual basis.”  

The work being done to restore the footpath at the Old Man of Storr Isle of Skye

Julian Digby, Director Cairngorm Wilderness Contracts Ltd, said:

“It is an honour for Cairngorm Wilderness Contracts to have been chosen to undertake this work in this iconic environment, it truly is a spectacular and awe-inspiring place to work and is easy to see why such huge numbers choose to visit it.

“Unfortunately, those same visitors are also the reason why the work has become necessary, the erosion caused by so many feet has caused extensive damage and this will only get worse without intervention.”

He added:

“Hopefully by us building a new path we will encourage more visitors to stick to the main paths and prevent any further damage which will allow regeneration to place as well as increasing visitor satisfaction.” 

OATS Chief Executive Officer, Dougie Baird, said:

“It is fantastic to see the second phase of works at Storr underway with a great team in place. 

“This work is so badly needed to make this special place sustainable for the hundreds of thousands of people who now come each year to visit.”

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