WORK on completing a ‘missing link’ in the Three Lochs Way long-distance walking route has moved a step closer after funding was secured for the final phase of the project.

The Helensburgh and District Access Trust (HADAT)has learned that its application to NatureScot for funding for Phase 2 of its project to install a bridge across Arrochar’s Tighness Burn has been successful.

The agency – formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage – has granted the charity £26,000 towards the scheme, which will provide a safe way for users of the popular Three Lochs Way long distance walking route to cross the burn behind the Village Inn in Arrochar.

Luss Estates and the locally-based Dr Hannah Stirling legacy fund have also offered to put money into Phase 2 of the project, which has an estimated price tag of £35,000.

Arrochar and Tarbet community stalwart, Duncan MacLachlan, who has been assisting the access trust, said: “As we head into the dark winter months this is a great piece of good news.

“It’s a welcome boost for our community which has been struggling for some time with a perfect storm of problems including the regular closures of the A83, visitor management issues, the blight of the abandoned torpedo testing station site, and the recurrent marine pollution problem at the head of Loch Long – all of course compounded this year by the Covid crisis.”

Access trust convener, John Urquhart added: “This has been a demanding project for the Access Trust as the only possible place to build the bridge was a difficult, but beautiful location immediately below a powerful waterfall and Robert McKendry, the contractor, will need all his expertise in dealing with the challenging terrain.

“He has already done a great job on the approach track so we have every confidence he will soon have the new bridge in place.

“And in what has been a great example of partnership working, the bridge will not only solve Scottish Water’s problem of walkers being tempted to use their dangerous water main support gantry to cross the burn – it will also help to improve access to one of the best sections of the Three Lochs Way.”

The 55-kilometre Three Lochs Way route stretches from Balloch in the south to Inveruglas in the north, via Goukhill Muir, Helensburgh, Glen Fruin, the Highlandman’s Way, the Yankee Road, Glen Douglas and Glen Loin.

Simon Miller, Luss Estates’ chief executive, said: “This section of the Three Lochs Way is situated on Luss Estates’ land, and we are delighted to support the delivery of this access project by enabling the works to take place, and by donating £4,000 to help realise the bridge works.

“At Luss Estates we strive to sustain and conserve the local environment through responsible stewardship of the land and by supporting sympathetic access projects.

“This bridge is located very close to the Arrochar Community Hydro project which was proposed by Luss Estates in 2013 as a means to generate income for the local community via the development trusts for Arrochar and Tarbet and for Luss and Arden.

“The addition of this bridge will greatly enhance both the Hydro and the Three Lochs Way route.”

Fiona Cuninghame, NatureScot’s recreation, access and paths officer, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the work of this volunteer organisation which does so much to improve outdoor access in the Helensburgh area.

“Earlier in the year we assisted with £9,000 funding for Phase 1 of the project which was completed in June and delivered the approach works necessary for the installation of the bridge.

“Weather permitting, it is hoped that the new bridge will be in place early in 2021.”