Delight as work on Shulishader steps restarts after lockdown

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.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 3:18 pm
Work on the second phase of the coastal path at Shulishader. (Photo: 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 is back on site in Point – 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 has been created, from the township to the top of the steps. The path is based on a light existing track.

Iain MacSween, of Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee, and Erica Geddes, of Third Sector Hebrides, trying out the new coastal path at Shulishader. (Photo: Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos)

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

Following the work on the access path, 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.

The first phase of the path, carried out in late 2018, involved shoring up the sea wall outside Eaglais na h-Aoidhe and building a better path along the coastline towards Aignish.

It cost £114,000, with £57,000 from LEADER and the other £57,000 from the profits from Point and Sandwick Trust’s wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag.

A number of other groups and organisations have helped 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 includes marking out the walking route from the Braighe to Swordale on the Minch side of Point – a distance of around 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: “After the hold up of all building work over the summer, it’s great to be back on site with Breedons and we hope that it will be ready before the end of September.

“All the funding is in place and we continue to be thankful to Point and Sandwick Trust and the Landfill Fund and the Shulishader grazings who have helped us financially.

“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 very varied landscape and seascape that we have. It’s full of hidden gems.”

Iain MacSween, clerk to the Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee, added: “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.

“It will make a big difference to that part of the township and it will give safe access to a place which was used extensively in the past for smaller boats fishing in the bay and is now used by wild swimmers and families wanting safe access to a nice shore.”

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,” he said. “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.

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said they would continue to support the coastal path project – and welcomed the steps forward.

He said: “With the outbreak of the pandemic and the lockdown, we had to focus all our efforts over the past months on mitigating the worst effects of that on our community.

“However, it seems like there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and we are delighted that work is underway once again on the coastal path.

“This is an excellent project which will be a huge asset to Point and Sandwick, and the wider Outer Hebrides, when it is complete and will enable a much-needed boost to our health and wellbeing.

“There’s nothing like the great outdoors and this project is improving everybody’s access to it.”