Walkers and cyclists are being urged to pay close attention to new path signs in Lews Castle Grounds.
Thigh-high wooden marker posts have been installed to rule out confusion – and collisions – on new bike and dual-use tracks developed as part of the ongoing Mountain-bike Trail Project.
The Stornoway Trust, which is overseeing the £300,000 scheme, is now keen for all track users take a moment to read the signs to ensure everyone uses the new routes safely.
“These tracks are a fabulous asset that are free to the public and have been well received so we want to make sure that everyone understands how they function and the new signposts should help to make it clear,” said Trust Factor, Iain MacIver.
“On some routes cyclists have priority and on other tracks pedestrians do. The important thing is that people are mindful of others and are aware of where, and in what direction, bikes or pedestrians might appear.”
The Trails Project was launched by local cyclists and the Trust six years ago following concerns over near-misses between bikes and walkers in the grounds.
“It was important to address the conflict that was developing between cyclists and other users in the grounds,” said Mr MacIver. “Some members of the public had even suggested that bikes should be banned but we didn’t want to go down that road. We thought the best thing would be to provide proper tracks for cyclists so that they could safely use the grounds and fortunately funding was forthcoming.”
Construction began in 2014 and involved teams of volunteers, a local contractor and Trust employees and is set to reach completion this year.
Construction work on the paths has taken 3 years
The new routes represent around 30 kilometres of dual-use and mountain-bike routes incorporating new and existing paths and providing varying grades of difficulty for cyclists from easy, or “blue”, to “red” – the most challenging. The bike specific tracks, which include a new “skills loop” and a mini “pump track”, range in length from 66 – 1500 metres can be recognised by names such as Strawberry Fool, Red Descent, Poppy Tears, the Black Pudding and Slipknot.
Trails expert Pete Laing has been involved in the project since the consultation stage.
He said that before the trails were created local enthusiasts were using the more interesting sections of path for mountain biking and making their own “desire lines” so it was clear that from the outset that new paths would be popular.
“It was great to create this new network for bikes and these marker posts represent one of the final stages so it’s a good feeling to be so close to completion,” he said. “I hope it proves to be a good solution for all users and will really open up opportunities for a wider range of recreational sports and multi-sports events too.”
Draft Version of the Lews Castle Grounds Recreation Trails
Mr Laing, from Selkirk, said it was fascinating to explore new areas of the grounds through the development stage and discover long-forgotten paths.
“There are some ancient routes in there – hundreds of years old - and it was quite something to come across them as part of this project.”
Although the official opening of the new tracks is set to take place later this year, they have been attracting many new users since construction began.
Alistair Glover, who runs new cycling centre The Hub at Willowglen, said the tracks have opened up a whole new experience for all levels of cyclists including visitors to the island.
“They are a fantastic facility and are bringing a lot of people to the grounds, and there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t feel safe using them – it just takes common sense,” he said. He urged cyclists to be sensible, read the signs, be aware of pedestrians - and dogs - and above all “have fun on them.”
The Stornoway Trust hopes that funding will be found to continue developing the grounds for multi-sport user and new routes including linking sections of most challenging red grade track into a single route.
The final map for bike and dual-use tracks in the Castle Grounds (Draft version pictured) will displayed in the grounds later this autumn and also available to pick up in various outlets locally including The Hub.
Cyclists of all ages can now enjoy the specialist mountain bike trails and dual-use tracks in Lews Castle grounds.