A council plan for a path on one of the Highlands’ most prominent mountains could lead walkers into danger, its owners fear.
The John Muir Trust, which owns Schiehallion, is objecting to Perth & Kinross Council’s proposal to add the route to the munro’s summit to its list of core paths. The trust is worried inexperienced walkers could be misled into attempting the route and getting into difficulties.
Core paths are being set up by councils across Scotland as a consequence of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. They are, according to the trust, meant to be easily followed and not too arduous. The path to the summit of the 1,083m (3,553ft) peak is steep and exposed; in winter it disappears under snow and at times is impossible to follow to anyone who does not possess winter navigation skills.
The JMT says the constructed path only goes as far as the mountain’s shoulder. Above this, there is not a defined footpath.
The trust’s land manager Andrew Campbell said: “While we completely support the development of a core-path network in Perthshire, we do not think that this route fits Perth & Kinross Council’s own criteria of what makes a core path.
“To many people a core-path network gives the impression that the routes are relatively easy, fairly low level and not too arduous. Routes to the tops of mountains do not fall into this category.”
The trust also says the proposal doesn’t fit the bill because it is not an access path linking two communities.
A spokesman for the council said: “Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 it is the duty of local authorities to draw up a system of paths – core paths – sufficient for the purpose of giving the public reasonable access throughout their area.
“As a result of extensive public and landowner consultation around the council area the access team has drawn up a series of core-paths proposal maps.
“Perth & Kinross Council’s core-paths plan proposals have been available to view and pass comment on since February
“This phase of the consultation has offered an opportunity for all interested parties to make sure the council has produced the best plan possible.
“All comments received will be taken into account when preparing the draft core-paths plan, which will be the subject of a formal statutory 12-week consultation period expected to begin later in the year.
“We would like to thank the John Muir Trust for its comments.”
The John Muir Trust is a conservation and wilderness charity, named after the Dunbar-born founder of the national park movement. It owns parts of Ben Nevis, Quinag, the Red Cuillin on Skye and Sandwood Bay.
The eastern side of Schiehallion was bought by the JMT in September 1999 and includes the main summit path, which the trust estimates is used by 20,000 walkers every year. It spent five years reconstructing the 3.4km (2.1 mile) route of an older path to guide walkers to the summit after the existing, more recent path from the Braes of Foss had deteriorated into what it calls a ‘mud motorway’.
The Scottish Government says core paths must be set up to ‘facilitate the exercise of access rights’. Core paths have to cater for everyone including those with disabilities, and it says authorities must have special regard to this when drawing up their network.
The Schiehallion outcome may have implications for other plans across Scotland. The final plans will be subject to public consultation in September.