The SNP's Westminister leader has backed a legal challenge by Ramblers Scotland which aims to prevent a wealth landowner blocking access to a "remote, timesless and beautiful" West Highland trail.

Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said he was "disappointed" to learn of the dispute between walkers and Donald Houston, director of Ardnamurchan Estates.

The charity has launched a landmark court action in efforts to halt plans to permanently block access to the path, which runs through Ardnamurchan Estate, near Kilchoan.

Local residents were furious when, in 2019, two elderly ramblers were reported for aggravated trespass while walking along the path, which starts near their Glenborrodale home and continues to Acharacle. 

Although no further action was taken against the couple, Ramblers Scotland branded the case “unprecedented and worrying”. 

A report compiled by local residents - including former Highland Council leader and current Lochaber Access Forum member Michael Foxley - identified 17 locked gates on paths on Ardnamurchan Estate land, in contravention of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

HeraldScotland:

Woodland Renewables – registered at Mingary Steading, Kilchoan – has now raised a case, seeking to use section 28 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to remove access rights from the affected part of the estate.

Earlier this month, Fort William Sheriff Court granted Ramblers Scotland permission to join Highland Council in opposing the section 28 application. Highland Council also intends to prove that a path that crosses the affected area of the estate is a Right of Way. 

Mr Blackford said: “I was disappointed to learn earlier this year of a dispute between Ardnamurchan residents and a local landowner who is alleged to have breached outdoor access legislation by locking numerous gates on walking routes which have been used for generations.

“It is my impression that when the area was - relatively recently - developed as a woodyard there was an understanding that access rights would be maintained.”

HeraldScotland:

However, Donald Houston, who owns the 30,000-acre Ardnamurchan estate and was a major donor in the Better Together campaign, said he has no objection to access but in the right places.

He said: "We are only shutting off about 75 yards of the path. There are four alternative routes round it.

"We are a working, hill livestock farm. We are very supportive of people who want to go up the hill and we exclude about 0.1% of the whole farm."

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said: “If we don’t fight to save the route, it’ll be a significant blow to our hard-won access rights and walkers will be banned from parts of this beautiful trail forever."

A further hearing will take place before an online court on 2nd February 2022.