Students from Portree High School work at the site of the heritage project at Sligachan. Photo: Steve Tinney

Students from Portree High School work at the site of the heritage project at Sligachan. Photo: Steve Tinney

Schoolchildren on a Hebridean isle have helped create part of a gateway to one of Scotland’s most challenging climbing ridges.

Students from Portree High School worked on paths and walls at the site of a future gateway to the Black Cuillin which will feature a statue of pioneer climbers John Mackenzie and Professor Norman Collie.

The gateway at Sligachan on Skye will commemorate the achievements of the pair, who pioneered climbing on the range. It will also form a gateway for visitors to the area, with views of the mountains. The full traverse of the ridge, with 11 munros, is one of the greatest tests for mountaineers in Scotland.

The high school students have been learning walling and path-building skills during the project, and children from primary schools on the island have been helping create six interpretation panels, covering Gaelic language and culture, the story of Collie and Mackenzie, local wildlife, the geology of the Cuillin, flora and fauna, and the Telford Bridges on Skye.

The land on which the sculpture will be placed has been donated by the John Muir Trust. A grant of £10,000 from the Robert O Curle Charitable Trust has enabled the work to begin. The high school students’ work is part of their John Muir Award, a nationally recognised environmental award scheme which encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to connect, enjoy and care for wild places.

Participants complete four challenges: discover a wild place; actively explore it; do something to conserve it; and share their experiences.

Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust said, “Collie and Mackenzie are inspiring figures who were pioneers in the exploration of the wild landscapes of Skye. It’s fitting that these two men should be immortalised in bronze at Sligachan, in sight of the Cuillin.

“I’m delighted that local schoolchildren have had the chance to get involved with the project through their John Muir Awards.”

Hector Macleod, chairman of the Collie Mackenzie sculpture group said, “This project has attracted interest from all around the world. It has taken much planning and consultation over the last few years to get to this stage. It has been a long wait but the group are delighted that work is finally underway.

“It is especially pleasing that our young people from the island are getting the opportunity to learn new skills and our group have always striven to make this a community driven project.”

The project will also improve access for disabled visitors. Work so far has included the burying of a power line which blighted the view of the Cuillin from the old Telford Bridge.

Fundraising towards the building of the sculpture is continuing through a bronze donation scheme.

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