The press are very interested in this story, and although I now live in Ireland, I have worked for 15 years to try to bring it to fruition. Here are some of the questions I was asked and my responses…..
Who was it who came up with the name and plan for the route, and when were plans first established to develop it?
The Caithness Waybaggers first mooted a different route in 1992 but due to land owner problems, it did not go ahead. Then a plan was put together in 2008 for the route across the North Coast by the sponsors you can see on my web site at www.dunnethead.co.uk, as well as some others, but they were the main ones.
Is there an overseeing committee set up to manage the project, how many people are involved and do you have a breakdown of positions etc.?
No… this is the problem. THC did a consultancy report (I can send you a copy if you wish) but a committee could not be formed so I have continued to market the existing route.
How exactly do you see the route developing (signposts, ambassadors, visitor centres, maps, advertising, corporate sponsorship etc.)?
I would hope to have all of what you have mentioned, plus toilets! We could also have our own Rangers to supplement the ones in existence, and transport to help people who do not make it to the next stop. We could not rely on existing emergency services… they are already overstretched. This area is very remote, and some areas do not have broadband coverage.
I notice you state a lack of “public funds” for the route. Who have you approached for funding so far, and what success have you had?
HIE is currently being investigated by Gail Ross and Jill Rosie as they refuse to engage, and will not set up a simple meeting of public services. Roy Kirk initially said he would set up a meeting, then reneged on his promise. I have everything in writing.
THC paid £1000 for the consultancy report which was not done by me, and I have asked for funds for a land owner survey. Again, they have refused, so Mrs. Ross is also looking into this. Matt Dent, THC Access Officer, does a great job and we work well together. He is, however, only responsible for the Core Paths. There has been a recent review to which I had an input.
//Dounreay thought I should do all of the work before applying for funding – refer to David Shearer. The Dunnet Head Educational Trust was in existence then and we had a lot of support, but they would not even consider funding.**
In short, the project has had precisely £1000 of public funding – this to a consultant who was not familiar with the route.
SNH are fantastic… they always provide information and assistance, but without a community group or charity to take it forward, it will be a very long process.
I have suggested that the Scottish Government fund my company directly as there has been so much controversy and so many difficulties.
What exactly is your overall goal for the project?
You state below that you want a “route similar to the South West path in England… not a built path through but a way to go.” Some might say “the way to go” already exists? How would you respond to that?
The overall goal is to have a route for horse riders, cyclists and walkers… all covered by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to which I had an input in 2003. This would be the only multi use route in Scotland.
As stated, similar to the South West Path. Some of the “way to go” does exist but there is a lot of road work and many difficult sections outwith the Core Path plan.
Some people would say that there is already a “way to go”… What would your response be to that?
It is not all accessible for horses and cyclists, and there are big gaps.
What about NC500
NC500 is a great initiative. It has certainly put Caithness and Sutherland on the map. I think the North Highland Way would complement this and we should be thinking about sustainable tourism, not folk driving round the North Coast of Scotland and missing out as they are in their cars and want to get from A to B… they are missing out on the real beauty of the area… the wildlife, the environment, the tranquillity…