Latest news stories from ScotWays.

Donald Bennet Memorial Bridge Opening

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Saturday 13 July 2019 saw 19 people meeting at the Allanaquoich Car Park on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms for a walk up Glen Quoich.  Family and friends of former ScotWays Honorary President, Donald Bennet, had gathered with representatives of ScotWays and the NTS to formally open the replacement upper bridge on the Quoich in Donald’s memory.

The group walked up to the new bridge, where Ben Dolphin, a seasonal ranger for NTS and recently elected President of Ramblers Scotland, gave an outline of the history and conservation management of the Mar Lodge Estate.   Jo Mould of NTS, Bob Aitken of ScotWays, and Donald’s son Alan described the importance of this bridge and how fitting it is as a tribute to Donald’s passionate and life-long contribution to access and conservation of Scotland’s countryside.  After a toast to Donald’s memory, his widow Anne cut the ribbon to open the bridge.

Donald’s love of the outside wasn’t the only connection to this part of Scotland within the assembled group.  The friends of the Bennet family included a one-time ghillie who had worked out of Mar Lodge in the 1950s and a lady whose brother-in-law had been Factor for the Swiss Panchaud brothers, the owners of the Mar Lodge Estate during the 1960s.

In December 2015 severe flooding hit this part of Aberdeenshire, and amidst great swathes of damage across the catchment of the Dee carried off the three bridges over the River Quoich.  The National Trust for Scotland and the Cairngorm Club replaced the middle bridge at the Punchbowl restoring access to Allanaquoich.  The new Donald Bennet bridge crosses the Quoich in its middle reaches and restores a circular walk which gives impressive views of the river’s scenic rapids, falls and characteristic punchbowls amidst fine pinewoods.

Donald Bennet was a Director of ScotWays from 1989, Chair between 1992 and 2000, and Honorary President between 2000 and 2004.  He played a major part in developing ScotWays to its current level of activity and authority in the field of access influence.  A passionate mountaineer, Donald was heavily involved in writing and editing Scottish Mountaineering Trust guides, including guides to the Munros and Corbetts. But he was also active in Mountaineering Scotland and as a member of the Countryside Commission for Scotland, helping to promote constructive new approaches to access.  All this work earned him the well-deserved award of an OBE.  When Donald passed away in 2013, ScotWays led fundraising efforts by the mountaineering and walking community which raised nearly £30,000 in his memory.

This is the second bridge that the Donald Bennet Memorial Fund has provided on the Mar Lodge Estate. The first bridge, where ScotWays provided the structural girders, replaced one destroyed in the devastating flash-floods of August 2014, close to Derry Lodge, and was installed in 2015.


Happy New Subscription Year!

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Our subscription year started on 1 July. Many thanks to all those who have renewed their subscriptions already.

Every membership not only help us uphold access rights in Scotland, but it also gets you discounts off our books, regular newsletters and the chance to join other members on one of our member walks.

If you are not already a member, why don’t you join us?

ScotWays office shut

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The ScotWays office will be shut on Monday 3rd June 2019 for staff training.


Carnach Bridge Update

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We have received a further update from the Camusrory estate on the progress with the Carnoch Bridge. Construction of the bridge is now in the final stages of completion and they are hoping it should be back in Mallaig for transporting to Camusrory towards the end of May.  In the meantime, they are using the recent good weather to remake the existing stone piers and also laying the foundations for the extension of the bridge.

Transporting the bridge and appropriate machinery to the bridge site is of course weather dependent but, all things being equal, the estate hopes to have the bridge in place around mid-July* 2019. They are sorry for the delay but feel that the end is now in sight and it will be a really fine bridge.

*Update: unfortunately there has been a further delay. The bridge is now expected to open at the end of August 2019.

Scotways at Easter 2019

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The ScotWays office will be closed on Friday 19th April 2019 and re-open on Tuesday 23rd April 2019.

General rights of way and access enquiries: We are currently receiving a large number of enquiries, and we are working hard to answer as many as possible before the Easter break. Unfortunately, we will not manage to respond to everyone, in which case we apologise for the delay in our response. If you are concerned not to have heard from us, please do feel free to drop us a reminder via post or email and we will be in touch once the office has re-opened.

Rights of way searches for solicitors, land managers and developers: We are currently only just meeting our target of responding to all rights of way search requests within 10 working days of receiving them in our office, unless another deadline has been agreed. As our office will be closed over Easter, search requests received after Thursday 4th April may not be completed until after the holiday. If your search request is urgent, please contact us to discuss when we will be able to complete it.


Walkers Bid to Save ‘Wild and Special’ Highland Dunes

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Two of Scotland’s biggest walking charities are set to join forces today to oppose “damaging and inappropriate” plans to transform wild Highland dunes into an 18-hole golf course. 

Ramblers Scotland and ScotWays plan to tell a public inquiry in Dornoch that the proposals threaten to permanently transform Coul Links near Embo in Sutherland – with negative impacts for the landscape, informal outdoor recreation and public access rights at the protected site.

Helen Todd, Ramblers Scotland’s campaigns and policy manager, said: “Coul Links is hugely valued by people seeking to enjoy solitude and nature amongst its wild and special dunes. These ill-conceived plans could restrict public access and harm visitors’ and residents’ enjoyment of the area.

“We must stand up for memorable, quiet places like Coul Links – before they’re lost forever. They form an important element of what makes Scotland so special, especially when contrasted to Highland honeypots like Skye or Glencoe.”

John Mackay is ScotWays’ honorary advisor and is scheduled to give evidence at the inquiry on Friday 22 March. He said: “Coul Links is a special place, having one of the finest beaches on the Moray Firth. It sits alongside the Loch Fleet basin, backed by the local hills to the north, all of which combine to create a very fine natural landscape.

“Coul and its wider setting, and the nature conservation interests of this area, are important assets for the many holiday visitors to Embo. They should be protected against development.”

Walkers have the legal right to cross Scotland’s 550+ golf courses, as long as they avoid interfering with play and keep off greens.

However, the design of the Coul Links course will make it difficult for people to avoid such interference, especially when the course is busy. Seven holes cut across an important core path, which also forms part of the newly-developed John o’ Groats Trail.

The charities’ evidence includes an article from a local resident on what Coul Links means to her. She writes: “Coul is one of the few truly special places in Scotland, where unexpected encounters with the wild are not only possible, they are likely.”

The first phase of the inquiry began on Tuesday 26 February, focusing on ecological issues. A coalition of seven conservation charities including RSPB Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Wildlife Trust argued that the plans seriously threaten biodiversity and wildlife. 

Inquiry reporters will make a recommendation to the Scottish Government, who will ultimately decide the fate of Coul Links. That final result may not be announced for many months after the inquiry ends. 

Highland councillors voted in June 2018 to grant planning permission for the course, despite their own planning officials, Scottish Natural Heritage, concerned residents and a range of environmental groups advising them to refuse the application. After a public outcry, two months later this decision was ‘called in’ by the Scottish Government for further scrutiny at a public inquiry.