ONE of the Isle of Skye’s most identifiable attractions, the Old Man of Storr, will undergo crucial habitat restoration work this autumn, thanks to a project led by the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland and supported by the Skye Iconic Sites Partnership.

The Storr is one of the most popular visitor attractions on the island, welcoming upwards of 200,000 visitors a year. However, this level of footfall has worn away vegetation and led to soil erosion.

Last year, the Skye Iconic Sites Project (SISP) conducted habitat restoration trials, including the collection and sowing of local wildflower seed to aid the restoration of the wildflower-rich grasslands.

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A lightweight jute netting known as “GeoJute” will be used to stabilise areas of soil which have been eroded by frequent footfall.

This will be combined with seeding and spot-turfing to regrow the vegetation. The netting is held in place with pins and boulders scattered on top, which both secure the netting and create sheltered micro-climates for seedlings to establish.

Jute netting is used to stabilise vulnerable soils all over the globe, helping to both physically protect the soil and trap silt and run-off. Other work will involve “damming” deep gullies with rocks and turfs to slow rainwater and trap the eroding soil. Drainage ditches will also be used to help cut off the natural drainage going into the gullies.

To protect contractors and the public, access to small areas of the site will be limited temporarily.

Dougie Baird, CEO of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, said: “The understandable popularity of the Old Man of Storr as a unique visitor attraction has led to the erosion of grassland, which is a crucial component of the local ecosystem and a key part of Scotland’s natural heritage.

“We are very grateful for the backing of the Scottish Iconic Sites Project in making this project possible and for their support in safeguarding this spectacular landscape for generations to come.”

Alistair Danter, chair of SISP, added: “It is great to be able to carry out this challenging work that will make the site resilient and available for future generations to enjoy.

“The economic and environmental value that an asset such as the Old Man of Storr represents for the local community is hard to overstate.”

SISP is part of an almost £9 million programme of projects to invest in the Highlands and Islands to provide more and better-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural and cultural heritage assets.