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6th Sep 2019

Paddy's Bridge to Steall Falls - a New Nevis Path

There has been a lot of focus over the last 5 years on the well-known and used paths in the Glen like the Ben Nevis mountain path and the All Abilities path, but there are several others that are also in need of attention!

One such route is further up the Glen from Paddy’s Bridge along the south side of the River Nevis and over to Steall Falls. We have recently received funding from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and Friends of Nevis to upgrade this path which will provide another excellent low-level path and poor weather option in the area. 

By crossing the wire rope bridge a new circular route can be made, returning through the stunning gorge. It would also provide an alternative route into the Steall Meadows area and access to the Mamore Hills and the popular “Ring of Steall “ walk without either having to cross the wire rope bridge which can be an obstacle for some people, or fording the River Nevis if the water level allows. At the end of a long day in poor conditions this could be a very welcome alternative to the crossing of the Nevis by either route, making their walk much safer. Finally it would maintain access to Steall and the Mamores in the event of a land slip in Steall Gorge of which there have been several in recent years.
This project also brings environmental benefits by defining a line through the boggy areas, stopping the increasing erosion of path braiding, and allows the peatland areas to recover, although some intervention may help this process. Further, it would also provide the opportunity to remove large sections of redundant, rusting metal fencing and wire fencing from the local environment, providing safer and better access for people and wildlife.

It was a well made substantial construction but due to the fence line, years of land slippage and vegetation growth it has gradually disappeared. The route is now obvious as far as the first of many switch backs as the path heads up the hill. It is at this first switch back that walkers have mistakenly carried on heading for the gorge and into unpleasant, steep and potentially dangerous ground. Initially we may put a sign here to make sure the correct route is followed.

The first contract, to be issued in August, will make these switch backs more obvious so that the walker will be in no doubt as to the direction to take. We will add drainage features to help shed the water and other minor construction of stone steps on a few steeper sections.

On reaching the crest the view is superb looking down to Steall meadows and the falls with distant views to Binnien Beag. It is fascinating to work out the original route, following some rocky slabs and steppingstones across wet sections that were laid over a hundred years ago, and picking up the winding path down to the river. The original route swings back to where the old bridge was at the entrance to the gorge (now gone bar a few metal posts) but the new route will carry on towards the wire bridge further upstream and on to the falls.

Paddy bridge
In the future perhaps a replacement bridge would be good. This would remove the obstacle to many people of the wire bridge and create a very enjoyable circular route at the head of the Glen.

Dougie Sinclair, NLP