Fears over Fort ‘death trap’ fix
ONE OF Lochaber’s oldest landmarks has become a ‘death trap’, but plans to safeguard the Old Fort will see the visitor attraction blighted by metal eyesores.
The ancient fortification, the town’s namesake, is visited by more than 10,000 people every year. But it has been crumbling away and concerns have been raised that children could fall 15 feet on to rocks and fencing on the shoreline below, leading caretaking group, Friends of the Old Fort (FOOF) to ask Historic Scotland to restore the stone wall around the area. But Historic Scotland said this would ‘interfere with history’ and advised owners, Transport Scotland, to surround the popular picnic area with aluminium railings. Norrie MacLean of FOOF said: ‘I just can’t understand it at all. It’s a death trap, a young child could easily fall and it’s a 15 foot drop so it could kill them. We asked them to repair the wall and put in castellation so it would be in keeping with what’s already here and still make it safe, but they said that would interfere with history. Instead they want to put metal guardrails everywhere which is going to interfere a lot more and look a lot worse.
‘We really want something done to protect the area because it’s supposed to be somewhere for people to enjoy, not be afraid of, but all that aluminium will just be a blight on the area and an eyesore.’
The Old Fort’s history dates back to the 1656 and includes the Battle of Inverlochy, Highland Clearances, the Jacobite Rebellion and was once an emigration point.
Work is due to start this month, which will allow the foreshore to be reopened to the public after it was closed due to falling boulders. But Mr MacLean, who also runs a guest house in the town, is worried the safety measures will put off visitors.
He said: ‘There’s so much history at the Fort and it has so much potential, but all of this metal is going to look awful. People are already put off visiting by the lack of signs and parking and I think this will make it worse. Something needs to be done to make the area safe, but this is the wrong way to go.’
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: ‘As the Fort is a scheduled monument, we have been providing advice to Transport Scotland regarding the work and we can confirm we have been liaising with them in relation to the possible introduction of a guardrail. This would require separate scheduled monument consent and Transport Scotland has therefore decided to apply for it at a later stage so as not to delay the initial works.’
In a statement from BEAR Scotland, which carries out maintenance work for Transport Scotland, a spokeswoman said: ‘ We’ve appointed a contractor to carry out the masonry repair work which is expected to start later this month. We are continuing to liaise with Historic Scotland in relation to the introduction of a guardrail at the top of the Old Fort walls.’
DEATH TRAP: Norrie MacLean of Friends of the Old Fort is worried children could plunge 15 feet to the rocky shore below