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The first phase of a £1 million project to develop a 40km coastal path from Stornoway all round the Point peninsula has received the ultimate stamp of approval – from local walking groups.
Groups such as the Women For Mission walking group from Garrabost Free Church are now choosing to walk circular routes taking in the Braighe, the historic Eaglais Na h-Aoidh (Ui Church) and the village of Aignish thanks to the project which shored up the coastline and built a new path.
Work on the first phase of the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path was carried out in November and December 2018. Development of the coastal path is likely to be split into five phases, with fundraising for the second phase at an advanced stage.
The £114,000 first phase – funded by £57,000 from LEADER with the remainder coming from the profits from Point and Sandwick’s Beinn Ghrideag wind farm – secured 100 metres of coastline and also the Ui Church’s graveyard wall, which was under extreme threat of erosion.
It also repaired a damaged culvert near the Aignish grazings, so the route is now totally dry.
Catriona Dunn of the Garrabost Women For Mission group said the new coastal path had made a big difference to their experience of walking in the area.
‘It’s pleasant underfoot. It’s easy to walk on and parts of it weren’t before. It was grassy and muddy in parts, especially where the culvert was. You wouldn’t even attempt it in winter,’ she said.
It was a different story now, she said, with the group walking it regularly, all year round – most recently on the Saturday before Christmas.
‘I think it’s really pleasant because you’re walking along the coastline and you’re seeing the views and the seals – there was a heron as well – and what’s been done to the church.’
The Women For Mission group usually meets to go walking together once a week and agreed the group gave them all a physical, social and psychological boost.
Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said the wind farm charity was pleased to have played a part in creating such valuable infrastructure.
‘Getting out and about for an easy stroll in our area is now much easier along this completed part of the coastal path. It is good to see more and more people locally out walking – the easiest and cheapest exercise available all year round, if suitably clad,’ he said.
For those unfamiliar with the area, the route which has been made accessible by completion of the first phase of the coastal path is on OS Explorer Map 459, Central Lewis and Stornoway.
It begins at Grid Reference 483 321 (the parking area at the Point end of the Braighe, near the Aignis Farm Raiders Monument) or from GR 492 320 (the Old Knock School, now home to Buth an Rubha, Cafe Roo and the Point and Sandwick Trust offices).