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Suilven Path Restoration Project

(Project Lead: John Muir Trust with Assynt Foundation)

This project aims to upgrade the main approach path to Suilven and repair the erosion caused by recreational access on Suilven itself. The project will create a more durable and sustainable path protecting the landscape from erosion and ensuring visitor’s experiences aren’t adversely affected by an eroded and deteriorating path.

Suilven Path Blog

Read about updates and latest news from the project here

Our Vision

Suilven is one of the most dramatic and iconic hills of Assynt. Recreational access to the summit of Suilven is having an adverse effect on vegetation and soils along the established access routes. Trampling of fragile vegetation, poaching of peaty soils and erosion of the hillside on steeper gradients is detracting from the natural beauty of the landscape and the experience of walkers venturing up Suilven. Experience from elsewhere in Scotland suggests that the steep side of Suilven could become badly eroded into a loose and mobile scree slope tens of metres across which would be unpleasant to try and walk on and a visible scar on the hillside. Once erosion becomes this acute it would be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. Small sections of the path have deteriorated over the last few years and this process will only continue if the path is not consolidated and protected.

This project will repair the path to an appropriate condition in keeping with the wild, rugged landscape of Assynt and create a more sustainable path line, helping to ensure walkers enjoy their experiences on Suilven and that the area continues to be considered a desirable and highly regarded destination for hill walking. The project will also demonstrate how major path restoration work in a wild landscape can be undertaken sensitively and appropriately and not create an overly engineered path out of keeping with the environment. To achieve this, the path will need to be more formally constructed than the present evolved route currently is. This will involve quarrying gravel on site to lay a durable path surface and importing stone to construct steps and drainage features. Careful consideration at the design stage will help to identify the most appropriate line and level of construction so that the path ‘fits’ within the landscape.

What we’ll do

The works will be divided into two main sections corresponding to the areas described below.

Section 1: From the small cairn on the Glencanisp track where the path branches off work will involve excavating gravel and mineral material from the ground to use as a durable path surface while constructing drainage features from natural stones to help deflect water off and away from the path. This section is about 1.6km long of which about 1km will end up being a gravelly surface while much of the rest of the path already is as it crosses drier ground. Some steps will also need to be built where the gradient increases.

Section 2: On the steeper ground up to the saddle, work will involve stabilising some of the loose and mobile ground using bigger boulders. About 120 tonnes of stone will be required for the work, much of which will need to be airlifted to the site by helicopter from nearby boulder fields as there isn’t enough stone on site.

2016-17:

  • Advertise and let contracts for path works
  • Airlift of materials for section 2
  • Work carried out on sections 1 & 2
  • Begin development of interpretation
  • JMT volunteers to assist with path works

2017-18:

  • Airlift of materials for section 2
  • Continue path work on sections 1 & 2
  • Continue development of interpretation
  • JMT volunteers to assist with path works

2018-19:

  • Finish path work on sections 1 & 2
  • Produce final interpretation materials
  • JMT volunteers to assist with path works

2020-21:

  • JMT volunteers to assist with path work maintenance

The Benefits

  • The views and enjoyment of walking up Suilven are protected;
  • Promotion of Suilven through the work;
  • Helping to sustain the number of people visiting the area;
  • Opportunity for local contractors to tender for the work;
  • Trickle-down effect for local businesses during repair project.

The Outputs

  • 1.6km of the main approach path repaired and upgraded.
  • The steep ascent path and ridge path (400m) are protected and consolidated.
  • Improved information and interpretation associated with the hill and path.

Funding

This project is supported by:

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