Row erupts as ho­tel fence blocks path

The Oban Times - - News - MARK ENTWISTLE men­twistle@oban­

ONE OF the High­lands’ most pres­ti­gious ho­tels is at the centre of a row over pub­lic ac­cess to a foot­path pop­u­lar with hik­ers and Glen­coe res­i­dents.

The tar­get of walk­ers’ ire is a new fence be­ing built across a 121-year- old pub­lic foot­path at the rear of the Glen­coe House ho­tel.

They say it af­fects ac­cess to the trails at Glen­coe Lochan and that the path is a pop­u­lar route and a suit­able track for mo­bil­ity ac­cess for dis­abled peo­ple from In­ver­coe and for vis­i­tors.

There is still a gap in the fence but it is reg­u­larly blocked with men-at-work warn­ing signs and traf­fic cones.

Glen­coe House, built in 1896 by Lord Strath­cona, is one of the most fa­mous prop­er­ties in the High­lands. Used as a hos­pi­tal dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, Glen­coe House was even­tu­ally closed as a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity in 2009 and two years later was bought and re­stored by Robert Niemeyer and Judy Pate and turned into the luxury ho­tel.

The path runs be­tween the rear of the ho­tel and what was pre­vi­ously for­mer sta­bles and an am­bu­lance sta­tion, which the ho­tel's own­ers con­verted into ad­di­tional luxury ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Lo­cal moun­tain and walk­ing guide Si­mon Nadin told the

Lochaber Times peo­ple were fu­ri­ous over the erec­tion of the fence.

‘I have no doubt this is­sue is not go­ing to go away. Lo­cal peo­ple are be­ing made aware of the ac­tion and are clearly an­gry at the high-handed man­ner with which it has been im­ple­mented,’ he said.

‘There’s been no con­sul­ta­tion with the lo­cal com­mu­nity about any of this and that has put quite a lot of peo­ple’s backs up.

‘This is not ac­cept­able in this day and age.

‘There can be no re­turn to a Vic­to­rian at­ti­tude about pub­lic land ac­cess.’

Asked to com­ment, a High­land Coun­cil spokesper­son said it was aware of the sit­u­a­tion which is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

He­len Todd, Ram­blers Scot­land’s cam­paigns and pol­icy man­ager, said the na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion shared the dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion of locals and vis­it­ing out­door en­thu­si­asts over the block­ing of the path.

‘High­land Coun­cil has des­ig­nated this route as a ‘core path’, mean­ing it is one of the most im­por­tant in the area for walk­ers, cy­clists, horse-rid­ers and oth­ers who want to en­joy the wood­land around the Glen­coe Lochan,’ she told the Lochaber

Times. Call­ing for the path to be re- opened, she added: ‘We have con­tacted the coun­cil’s ac­cess team to of­fer our sup­port to their ef­forts to re­solve the is­sue as soon as pos­si­ble.’

Ram­blers Scot­land says the sug­gested al­ter­na­tive route is far less ap­peal­ing and not suit­able for all users.

The orig­i­nal path was a wide track that could be used by ev­ery­one to ex­plore the woods, in­clud­ing those with bug­gies or the less able.

And the Scot­tish Rights of Way and Ac­cess So­ci­ety (ScotWays) says the path may also meet the cri­te­ria to be a right of way and called on peo­ple to share in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing its use.

De­spite sev­eral at­tempts, no re­sponse from Mr Niemeyer was forth­com­ing be­fore we went to press.

The new fence at the rear of Glen­coe House which has caused anger among lo­cal peo­ple.

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