A landowner has backed plans to build a bridge for walkers and cyclists across a narrow section of Loch Fleet in Sutherland.
The idea for the crossing to connect the village of Littleferry and Coul Links has been mooted for many years but was recently discussed by Golspie Community Council.
Now Edward Abel Smith, who owns Coul Farm and has plans for a £20 million eco-hotel in the area, has added his support to the initiative which could connect to planned local cycle path initiatives.
Mr Abel Smith said a new bridge would give hotel visitors easy access to Golspie, as well as allowing workers from further north to cycle to work at Coul Links or Dornoch.
He said: “I am really excited about the prospect of a bridge connecting Coul Links to Little Ferry.
“The hotel and the golf course will support the project in whatever ways they can, to make this a reality.
Bridge could be an ‘amazing attraction’
“Being able travel up the coast all the way from Dornoch, through Coul Links, on to Golspie and then Brora, without having to travel on the A9, will be an amazing attraction for golfers, visitors and locals alike.”
Mr Abel Smith said plans for the 80-bed hotel will be submitted “imminently”, but it will only go ahead if a world-class golf course is built on Coul Links.
A local group, Communities for Coul (C4C), wants to revive the £50 million golf course project that was turned down after a public inquiry in 2019.
It has secured a deal with Mr Abel Smith for the land to be leased to the community long-term, for a peppercorn rent.
The landowner added: “We can only pull in the investment to build the hotel if Coul Links golf course goes ahead. I really hope that everyone in east Sutherland gets behind C4C’s initiative to make this a reality.”
Ian Sutherland, chairman of Golspie Community Council, welcomed the landowner’s support for the project.
He said: “It’s a fantastic idea but it’s obviously going to require major investment.
“It would link up Dornoch, Embo, Golspie and Brora, where there are ongoing separate projects for cycle ways. It would link up that whole stretch of the east coast and keep people off the A9.
“There are huge questions that need to be answered before it could get off the ground but it’s certainly one of our ongoing dreams.”
Gordon Sutherland, from C4C, said a feasibility study could be the next stage: “We would be very much in favour of this bridge, it’s a fantastic concept.
“Connecting the communities of Golspie, Embo, Dornoch and perhaps Tain, would create a really nice cycle route.”