Trust tackles visitor pressures at Bla Bheinn

Visit Scotland awards £65k towards cost of new composting toilets and extra car parking space at foot of popular Skye mountain

H8 bla bheinn 4 alternative website background1 detail

The Trust  has been awarded crucial funding to help it build two composting toilets and double car parking provision at  the foot of Bla Bheinn.

The funding package – from the Rural Tourist Infrastructure Fund administered by Visit Scotland – is worth £65,579, which would cover around 75 per cent of the estimated £100,000 cost of the project. The balance will be raised by the Trust, which last week submitted a planning application to Highland Council.

This plan would involve doubling the capacity of the existing car park from approx. 16 to 34, including disabled access, and the building of two composting toilets, which will require minimal maintenance.

It will also include interpretation to help visitors better understand the landscape, wildlife. culture and heritage of the local area - and to  remind people of the importance of responsible visitor behaviour as summed up in the slogan Leave No Trace.

The project is part of a wider Visitor Management Strategy the Trust is developing for long term implementation.

Sarah Lewis, the Trust’s Skye Conservation, officer said: “As everyone knows, tourism in Skye has been growing rapidly over the past few years, but  the island’s infrastructure is lagging behind. The John Muir Trust has invested heavily in footpath repairs recently, but we are also looking at how best to manage visitor pressures, especially around Bla Bheinn, which is one of Scotland’s finest and most popular mountains.

“We are confident this application will be successful because it will relieve parking congestion and would help us keep the main access route to the mountain landscape tidy and free from the mess that some tourists, unfortunately, do leave behind.

“There is no mains water supply in the vicinity, so composting toilets are the most cost-effective way to provide public conveniences at the foot of Bla Bheinn. It’s  also a strong  example of how we can work with natural processes to minimise waste and chemical use. The  system is almost odour-free, has minimal environmental impact and, once all harmful bacteria have been broken down by biological organism, it will produce non-food fertilizer.”

The Trust manages 12,000 hectares on Skye, including the Strathaird, Torrin and Sconser  estates,  crofting settlements such as Elgol and part of the Cuillin Hills National Scenic Area. Over the past two years, the Trust has –  with the support of its members, supporters  and external funding bodies –invested  £263,000 repairing and upgrading  its  network of footpaths, on the island, including the Sligachan to Loch Coruisk route, the Elgol to Camasunary path, and the scenic loop path at the Allt Daraich gorge between Sligachan and Glamaig.

The Trust is also working closely with the Broadford campus of the UHI to train students and local people in footpath-building skills as part of the Crofting and Countryside Skills course.