An ambitious footpath improvement project at the world famous Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, has been completed in time for the peak tourist season.
The Storr is an iconic and internationally recognised site, with annual visitors reaching approx 223,000 per annum, therefore essential that the facilities are suitable for purpose and enhance the visitors’ experience.
The impact of the repetitive footfall on the surrounding landscape was evident as was the need for upgraded infrastructure to withstand the volume of people using it.
The new footpath is the final link in completing a network of upgraded paths at Storr, however the visitor experience at the Storr continues to develop at pace.
Phase two of the project was made possible by funding from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (administered by VisitScotland) and the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division (SGRPID).
The total budget cost was £220,771 and has allowed the top of the path area known as the “Photographer’s Knoll” to be carefully hand-built and restored.
The path is now clearly marked to encourage visitors to follow the designated route, that in-turn will prevent grazing land being interrupted and protect the delicate SSSI landscape from erosion.
Cllr Ken Gowans, The Highland Council’s – Economy and Infrastructure Committee Chair, said:
“Funding from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) and the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division (SGRPID) has been pivotal in making the path improvements possible.
“The collective effort to restore and improve the path and the visitor facilities is testament to all those involved in sensitively transforming the visitor’s experience at the Old Man of Storr, whilst protecting the natural assets that draws people to this truly iconic and dramatic place of beauty.
“The improvements enable people to enjoy the Storr responsibly and safeguard its sustainability for generations to come.”
Chris Taylor, Destination Development Director at VisitScotland, said:
“It is fantastic to see the paths project completed ahead of the start of the traditional visitor season, which will be a huge improvement to the visitor experience on Storr.
“The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund can make a real difference to sites which have experienced a large volume of visitors and the impact that can have on communities.
“The restoration and waymarking of these paths will help ensure Storr remains a must-visit destination for future generations of holidaymakers.
“Tourism is a force for good and sustains communities in every corner of Scotland, creates jobs and can improve wellbeing.
“We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and RTIF projects such as this will help ensure our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.”
Ewen MacPherson, Senior Agricultural Officer, Rural Payments and Inspections Division, said:
”I’m delighted to see the completion of the Storr path network which now extends fully from the roadside carpark to the main attraction areas.
“It has not only greatly enhanced the walking experience but has visibly reduced the damaging footfall impacts on the hill.
“For any local not having visited the Storr in some time, it is definitely worth a visit!
“My thanks go to all the members of SISP who helped deliver, from inception to completion, and thanks to The Highland Council for project managing.
Duncan Bryden, chair of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, said:
“OATS are delighted that the paths at the Storr have been improved.
“Nature based sites on Skye underpin much of the island’s tourism sector and help deliver employment and visitor spending.
“The combination of many pairs of feet, weather and climate change are taking their toll.
“Looking after our core natural assets is essential so future generations can enjoy these sites as we do today.”
The Storr path improvement project was managed by the Highland Council in partnership with the Skye Iconic Sites Partnership (SISP) and the contractor Cairngorm Wilderness Contracts sensitively constructed the paths by hand.