Latest news stories from ScotWays.

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.

2019 Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum Walks Programme announced

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The Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum (SPRF) has announced it’s Walks programme for 2019.  They are open to anyone who enjoys walking and would like to learn more about the SPRF Priority Pilgrim Walking Routes.  There is no cost for the walks which are generally between 5 and 8 miles in distance.

This years walks include the Three Saints Way, Whithorn Way, St. Cuthbert’s Way, Kentigern Way, Forth to Farne and the Fife Pilgrim Way.  You can find more details over on the SPRF website.

Coul Links Public Inquiry Starts

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The public inquiry into the proposed 18 hole golf course at Coul Links, Embo, near Dornoch, Sutherland has started.  The inquiry is scheduled to last for four weeks and will see a range of experts, both for and against, present their cases for the Reporter to hear.

ScotWays and Ramblers Scotland will highlight the major negative impacts the proposed golf course would have on both residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the outdoors.  The first phase of the Inquiry will deal with the conservation aspects and the outdoor access arguments is scheduled to be heard during the fourth week.

Once the inquiry has finished, the Reporter will consider all the evidence presented and make a recommendation to the Scottish Government who will, ultimately, make the final desicion.  This process make take a number of months.

If you want to know more of can find all the inquiry papers on the DPEA website.

ScotWays - Small Grant Scheme 31 May 2019 Deadline

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The ScotWays small grants scheme aims to help organisations fund a project up to 50% of the total budget for the project.

The scheme will award grants of between £500 and £1,500. It is hoped that this might enable organisations to achieve the completion of a community-based/access-related project which might not otherwise be able to proceed.

Applicant organisations should be members of ScotWays.

The next submission date for applications is 31st May 2019, and a decision on any applications received by that date will be made by the end of July.

For further details please visit our downloads page where you’ll find an explanatory letter and the application form.

Cairnbank Road, Penicuik – Path Open!

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The appeal to Sheriff Court decision due to be heard on 21 January 2019 has been cancelled.

This means that the court case to protect the public’s right of access to the Peniculk Estate via Cairnbank Road is now complete.  The gate that the owner had installed was unlocked before Christmas and we have just heard that the fence has now been taken down.

You can find out more about this case in this news article on our website and also on the Midlothian Council website.



Public Inquiry for Coul Links Golf Course Proposal

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Scotways and Ramblers Scotland have announced we will join forces at a public inquiry in late February 2019, to object to plans for an 18-hole golf course on beautiful dunes at Coul Links in Sutherland.

Impacting recreation
Together, we will highlight the major negative impact of the golf course upon the enjoyment of the outdoors for residents and visitors.

The site at Embo near Dornoch is highly valued for recreation, due to the wild qualities of its pristine dune system and beach, set within the stunning coastal seascapes of eastern Sutherland. 

We have concerns about the impact on the informal recreation which is already taking place, and on Scottish access rights.  The public has a right of access to cross golf courses, as long as they avoid interfering with play and keep off the greens. The developer has drawn up a Recreation and Access Management Plan to set out how formal and informal access will be managed in future, but we are concerned about the worrying limitations on access it is proposing.

For example, a core path runs through the site along the route of a former railway line. This path forms part of the John o’ Groats Trail, a new long-distance route from Inverness along the north-east coast which is being rapidly developed by volunteers. The route has been praised in a parliamentary motion and is already growing in popularity with walkers even though it isn’t fully opened yet. It has the potential to boost the region’s tourism, health and the local economy.

We are concerned that the design of the golf course means that seven holes will be played across this core path, creating an unacceptable risk for people walking or cycling along the path.

You can read our initial joint statement to the inquiry in full here.

Damaging nature
As well as Scottish Natural Heritage objecting to the plans, there is a coalition of seven organisations working together to highlight the serious threats to the area’s biodiversity and wildlife. This includes RSPB Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Marine Conservation Society and Plantlife. 

The area is subject to national and international protections due to its special nature and wildlife. If the golf course goes ahead, two holes will intrude on to the beach in an exposed setting on the frontal dune ridge.

We generally support the nature charities’ compelling arguments, which they will outline jointly during a separate phase of the inquiry. 

In August 2018, the Scottish Government took the correct decision to ‘call in’ the application for further scrutiny. 

This decision followed Highland councillors voting in June 2018 to grant planning permission for the course despite their own planning officials, concerned residents and a range of environmental groups urging them to refuse the application.