Work to upgrade sections of the West Highland Way at Loch Lomond has begun – but access to the world famous route will not be affected.
Forestry Commission Scotland is carrying out the £750k project – backed by the Scottish Government’s ‘shovel ready’ fund - as part of a wider path upgrade project being carried out in partnership with Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority.
The West Highland Way starts in Milngavie and ends, 96 miles later, in Fort William.
Liz Walker, for the Commission’s team in the area, said; “This is a major and long needed upgrade of some sections of the route that will make it an even more attractive and enjoyable proposition for visitors and walkers.
“It’s taken a while longer to get started than we’d hoped but given that this is a Special Area of Conservation we’ve made sure that we have everything in place to do this job properly and with absolutely minimal impact. We have completed the ecological surveys and bat surveys, have all the necessary approvals and permissions in place and have completed our preparation work.”
Special techniques will be used to minimise the impact on the surrounding environment as much as possible. As well as opting for hand build techniques and ground protection mats, the team will also use a ‘walking excavator’ that minimises any disturbance. Materials for constructing the path will also be shipped in by boat from the National Trust Scotland site north of Rowardennan to agreed landing sites, which will also be protected by matting.
The upgrade work, which is expected to be completed by April 2014, will make these sections of path more user friendly, improve the quality of the visitor experience and help to secure its long-term future as a tourism destination. It will additionally make it easier for the Commission to carry out harvesting operations on Ptarmigan ridge over the next five to ten years and to restore the site to native woodland.
The project will include 5.0 km of upgrade to existing path at Ptarmigan and two new re-aligned sections.
Other sections linking Balmaha to Rowardennan will also be improved. Earlier this year work was completed on the steps linking Balmaha to Conic hill and the steps at Strath Cashel.
Claire Travis, Recreation Manager for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “It’s fantastic to see the upgrade work starting on the West Highland Way and the lower path being restored to use. This increases the opportunities for day walkers from Rowardennan and allows everyone to experience more of the native woodland along the shores of Loch Lomond.
“We have 80,000 walkers who come and enjoy the West Highland Way every year and this significant investment acknowledges the important contribution this iconic long distance walking route makes to the Scottish economy.”
To keep up to date with progress on the upgrades and other news follow Forestry Commission Scotland at http://www.twitter.com/lodgeaberfoyle