Am Bratach No. 327
January 2019

Improving access to Sandwood Bay

The North West Highlands are undergoing an increase in demands from high visitor numbers, which are expected to continue rising, writes Romany Garnett. In parallel with higher visitor numbers following the North Coast 500 route, local authority services are being squeezed and reduced, putting pressure on the few remaining local facilities. Thanks to a grant from the coastal communities fund, the John Muir Trust is working to upgrade existing amenities on Sandwood Estate. These improvements are intended to prevent further deterioration of facilities while giving visitors a better experience of the area in and around Sandwood.

This project started at the end of 2017 and is now almost completed, having created additional employment in the area. At the beginning of the project, a survey of local businesses highlighted a number of potential improvements. These include the need for more signage, information about the estate, more choice in outdoor activities, better interpretation and more online information. The main project outcomes are: (1) updating facilities at the Blairmore car park, (2) improving the track into Sandwood Bay to prevent further erosion, (3) working with Kinlochbervie Primary School and High School, (4) organising a threeday free outdoor festival for local residents and visitors, (5) organising guided walks, (6) producing a new leaflet to promote local activities and “slow tourism”, and (7) providing training and volunteering opportunities.

We have finished upgrading the car park surface at Blairmore and have made improvements to the toilet block which will soon have an up-to-date interpretation panel highlighting local history and wildlife. Signage will encourage people to behave responsibly in accordance with the Scottish outdoor access code. This includes reminders to leave no trace, to respect the interests of other people, to care for the environment, to bring back more litter than you take in and to keep dogs under close supervision.

Pupils from Kinlochbervie High School have contributed artwork which will be installed along the track. We are also working with a “leave no “trace” group to help tackle issues around increased tourism on Sandwood Estate. This project intends to help local crofters and hospitality businesses to cope with increasing visitor numbers while promoting environmental responsibility. Improvements made will hopefully benefit the landscape, crofters, local residents and visitors to the area.

Romany Garnett is a conservation officer on the John Muir Trust's Quinag Estate.

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