A New Path Ahead


The hotly anticipated 2.6km path between the villages of Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich is nearing completion. It is expected to open in February 2021. The route runs shoreside from Bruichladdich pier all the way to Port Charlotte village with access points, including a fully accessible ramp and gateway at the World War memorial at Port Ban.

The pathway has been a sizeable and lengthy project for the Rhinns undertaken with Islay Community Access Group (ICAG) and Argyll and Bute Council, and in partnership with Bruichladdich and The Botanist Foundation, alongside a number of match funding bodies. 

Iain Hepburn, designer and construction manager for the pathway

Iain Hepburn, local architect and engineer, describes how it all started, back in the Spring of 2016 “It was Allan Logan of Bruichladdich Distillery who originally commissioned me to design a shared use path from Bruichladdich to Port Charlotte.  Allan’s vision was to emulate the Three Distilleries Path in Port Ellen and provide safe access of both pedestrians and cyclists alongside the busy road between Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. The distillery financed the design and planning application which allowed the project to go forward to the construction phase.” It was then that the public bodies and funders stepped in and Bruichladdich’s role become more one of providing meeting rooms and general support wherever it was needed.

Iain had himself worked on the Three Distilleries path, which connects Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Laphroaig in South Islay. And he was involved in the design and construction of Ardnahoe distillery. So he brought not only expertise but also a network of local and trusted contractors to this project for the Rhinns. Using a local labour force where possible is a real positive for the island and something Iain says he is proud of. In addition to reducing the costs and emissions of bringing in contractors and machinery, it means work has been able to continue through this most logistically uncertain of years.

Safe access for pedestrians and cyclists

Local celebrity contractor Gordon Currie and his team Allan, Stuart, Duncan and Elliot have all been working on the groundworks. The spur off the path down to Port Ban bay has been constructed by Peter McDiarmid, former Bruichladdich employee and one of the landowners along the route. The spur down to the sheltered bay which is good for picnics and swimming is part-funded by The Botanist Foundation. The Foundation hope to support more along the pathway including benches and helping the route’s wild flowers.

Fencing was completed by local Kenny Carter. The stonework repairs and amendments to existing walls along the way will be done by Argyllshire drystone waller Pat Gillespie. Pat is hoping to start work in the next few weeks including a large portion of wall that needs to be taken down and rebuilt at the entrance to the Port Charlotte lighthouse. This will join up the path to the existing pavement in Port Charlotte.

The heavy construction of the bridges and boardwalks across what they call “the swamps” is being done by “the Irish lads”. Michael, Anthony, Paul and Kevin are from the midlands, west of Ireland but some have “been on the road since 1986”. The team are used to Islay living having spent several years on various projects over here, including the Machrie golf hotel. “They’re basically locals and they’re the best around; I can rely on them to do the top job.” says Iain.

The steelwork they’ve been piecing together is from West Lothian based Craig Engineering. Iain sends his CAD designs to them, which are replicated in galvanised British steel. The parts are drilled and then galvanised to seal the edges. This production sequence is important to allow fewer problems down the line with erosion, something we are all aware of here, where we’re exposed daily to the salty air of the Atlantic.

Specialised topping will complete the pathway

When it is time, the path will be topped with the very durable Colas topping. This material includes stoney clay in a special mix and sets ‘rock solid’. It’s pretty specialist, so Gordon Currie’s men have been back to school to learn how to use, mix and lay it. It needs to be laid when the weather is bone dry (fingers crossed). Another advantage of using the local workforce is that they can make the most of any weather window.

Bruichladdich’s Production Director Allan Logan, says:

‘We hope the path will be of huge benefit to locals and visitors alike, for many years to come. It will be nice to see both villages benefit from walkers and cyclists having a new and safe route, while being able to enjoy the views of Lochindaal on the way.’

With a large portion of our employees living on the Port Charlotte end of the path. perhaps we will have a few more car-free commuters once the route is open. We will need to get a bigger bike rack in the courtyard!

All involved would like to give a huge thanks the landowners along the route who have very kindly donated their land for free for the future enjoyment of the people and visitors of Islay.

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