Work on Shulishader steps restarts after lockdown

Work resumes on the second phase of the coastal path, at Shulishader. Pictures by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos.

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Work has resumed on a project to restore a historic access route to a popular island cove after it was put on hold due to lockdown.

Iain MacSween of Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee and Erica Geddes of Third Sector Hebrides, trying out the new path. Pictures by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos.

Work on the Shulishader steps – the 88 steps which lead steeply down to a shore once used as a landing site for fishing boats and now popular for wild swimming – was paused earlier in the year, just as it was about to enter a major stage.

But now construction company Breedon are back on site in Point, Isle of Lewis – to great joy among campaigners and fundraisers.

The steep flight of steps down to the geodha (Gaelic for ‘cove’) will be repaired and made safe – they were cleaned up in the initial stage of the work – and an access path of around 300 metres is being created from the township to the top of the steps.

The work will be completed by the installation of a handrail for safety.

Work on the access path was expected to be finished by the end of last week and the steps should be done in the next couple of weeks. The handrail – being made by John Angus Morrison of Vagabond Gates and Railings, based in Knock – is expected to go in within the next month.

The work at Shulishader is part of a £1million project to create a clear walking route from Stornoway along the Braighe and all the way round the peninsula of Point.

Once complete, Point and Sandwick Community Coastal Path will be 40km long and form part of the legacy of Point and Sandwick Trust’s community wind farm, as one of the key funders.

Point and Sandwick Trust gave £9,000 towards the work at Shulishader as part of the second phase of the coastal path. In addition, the trust’s community consultants, Alasdair Nicholson and Tony Robson, have been working with the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee on delivering their ambitious project.

A number of other groups and organisations have helped to fund the second phase of the path. The Scottish Landfill Fund, administered locally by Third Sector Hebrides, committed £7,000 and the Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee gave £4,000.

As well as the access to the geodha at Shulishader, the second phase also includes marking out the walking route from the Braighe to Swordale on the Minch side of Point  – a distance of around 1.2 miles (2km) – with route posts and installing several self-closing gates for access.

Matt Bruce, chairman of the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee, said he hoped these gates would ‘settle in and become popular’ and warmly welcomed the resumption of the coastal path work in general.

He said: ‘We hope to continue to promote the path on its way around the whole of Point and Sandwick– not all bits will be surfaced; some bits will be just moorland marker posts – so that more people can experience the varied landscape and seascape that we have. It’s full of hidden gems.’

Iain MacSween, clerk to the Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee, said: ‘It’s a great relief that it’s going to get going again. We were all set to get going with the project just when the lockdown started so it’s been a bit frustrating.’

Shulishader resident Donald Taylor, who has been campaigning for work to be done to the area for years, was also thrilled to see the project resume.

‘It’s absolutely amazing, terrific. I’m absolutely delighted because I was beginning to wonder…’

Along with his brother, Dr Derek Taylor, Donald has been researching and writing a series of articles on the geodha, on the history of Shulishader and on some well-known people from the village.

It is hoped that some of this material will eventually be incorporated into information boards, to be placed at the roadside access point.