Chris Bonington with his dogs Bella, Bodie and Alfie with Suilven in the distance in 1986. Photo: Chris Bonington Picture Library

Chris Bonington with his dogs Bella, Bodie and Alfie with Suilven in the distance in 1986. Photo: Chris Bonington Picture Library

A scheme to restore footpaths on an Assynt mountain has topped a worldwide poll to win £18,000 of funding.

Outdoor brand Berghaus nominated the project on Suilven for the prize in the Alpine category of the competition run by the European Outdoor Conservation Association.

Members of the public backed the scheme, casting 6,000 votes – 52 per cent of those in the category – beating strong opposition from four other projects in Rwanda, Italy, France and Spain.

The John Muir Trust and the Assynt Foundation will jointly carry out the restoration work as part of the Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape Partnership scheme.

Chris Goodman, Footpath Officer for the John Muir Trust said: “This is great news. We were up against strong competition but thousands of people in the Highlands and the wider outdoors community across the UK rallied behind Suilven, underlining just how popular this hill is.

“We’d like to thank Berghaus for nominating Suilven, as well as others who have helped win this funding.

“Alongside other funding, this windfall will allow us to get off to flying start next year. The trust still needs around £50,000 to carry out a full restoration of the footpath that will endure for decades to come.”

Brendan O’Hanrahan from the Assynt Foundation said: “The foundation is delighted that the importance of improving the access to this well loved mountain has been recognised in this way. That this comes from an international audience is a tribute to the success of the partnership approach embodied by the CALL Partnership.

“Suilven itself, bearing its hybrid Norse-Gaelic ‘Pillar-Mountain’ name, symbolises the rich and diverse cultural history of our area, as well as often serving as the visual standard-bearer for our world-class landscape.

“The foundation, as a community-owned estate after a buyout 10 years ago, has always considered the stewardship of this breathtaking expanse of mountain and bog as one of its highest priorities – for both local and visitor alike.”

Richard Williams from the Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape Partnership, which includes the Assynt Foundation and the John Muir Trust, said: “This sort of project just isn’t possible without a huge investment of time and expertise and we’re grateful to all involved in helping develop the project, and of course to all those who voted for it.”

Richard Leedham, Berghaus brand president, said: “This is excellent news. Berghaus nominated the Suilven path project because our staff know from first-hand experience about the importance of the work of the John Muir Trust, a charity we’ve been supporting for over a decade.

“We have seen, and participated in, path repair initiatives by the John Muir Trust and understand how they are undertaken in a way that is sensitive to their environment, so this project is one that resonates strongly with us. We hope that the remaining funding is quickly secured and that the path restoration can go ahead soon.”

British mountaineering elder statesman Sir Chris Bonington, who is also chairman of Berghaus, backed the Suilven bid.

The European Outdoor Conservation Association is a not-for-profit organisation based in Switzerland which has 120 affiliated groups from every country in Europe.

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