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Plans and images for the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve Boardwalk and Active Travel Route project published by Highland Council and Sustrans as public consultation is launched

By Val Sweeney

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A public consultation has been launched on the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve Boardwalk project.
A public consultation has been launched on the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve Boardwalk project.

Ambitious plans to replace a dilapidated seafront boardwalk in Inverness have been revealed as a public consultation is launched.

Highland Council, and partner Sustrans, have published plans and visualisations for the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve (MLNR) Boardwalk project.

It involves the upgrade of the route between Carnarc Crescent and the railway crossing to an all-abilities standard which will be suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters as well as pedestrian and bikes.

It will include the replacement of the existing ageing boardwalk and will tie in with the access improvements currently being carried out by Scottish Canals.

Together they will form an Active Travel Route connecting South Kessock with Merkinch and the city beyond.

Ambitious plans to replace the boardwalk at Merkinch Local Nature Reserve have been published.
Ambitious plans to replace the boardwalk at Merkinch Local Nature Reserve have been published.

The route will also provide greater access opportunities for locals and visitors to reconnect with nature and enjoy the high-quality waterside settings provided by the Caledonian Canal and Merkinch Local Nature Reserve.

The project design stage has been funded by Sustrans through Places for Everyone and they are also set to be the main source of funding towards the £560,000 construction stage budget.

Highland Council has also allocated £100,000 Capital funding towards the project, and been successful in obtaining additional funding from Inverness Common Good Funding (up to £45,000), Highland Coastal Communities Funding (up to £12,000) and Smarter Choices Smarter Places funding (£5000).

To further enhance the reach of the consultation and encourage public engagement, the drawings and visualisations are due to be displayed at the Merkinch Community Centre later this week.

An artist's impression of the upgraded boardwalk at Merkinch Local Nature Reserve.
An artist's impression of the upgraded boardwalk at Merkinch Local Nature Reserve.

Once Highland Council’s project team have received and reviewed comments from consultees, the design will be refined and a planning application submitted by early September. This will provide a further opportunity for comment.

The contract will be tendered once the planning application has been approved and the Sustrans Construction Phase funding is in place, with a view to a contractor being appointed early in the new year.

The main elements for consideration are :


In order to accommodate cyclists and meet the Sustrans requirements, it should be noted that the boardwalk structure will be considerably larger and higher than existing (3m width compared to the existing 1.4m) and that the railings require to be min 1.4m in height (compared to the existing 1m).

The proposal shows a realignment of the boardwalk to form a sweeping curve which rises at a continuous but gentle gradient to the sea wall level.

This would cut out the requirement for steps and a separate ramp, and should allow a generous landing with good views and a potential seating/information area.

The structure will be constructed using recycled plastic to reduce maintenance and improve longevity.

The drawings show the parapets as a standard three rail construction, but there may be options to include infill panels to prevent young children from climbing through, however, consideration would also need to be given to the visibility ahead, potential reduction in views, and the safety of cycle handle bars catching.

Although not included on the drawings, there may be scope to add a separate pond dipping platform at a lower level which would extend from the passing space at the woodland end of the boardwalk. This will depend on available budget.


The path will also be increased in width to 3m along most of its length.

The sea wall path between the boardwalk and the railway will be slightly increased in width to 1.5m.

Paths will be hard surfaced using tarmac with a spray and chip finish.

Although the path between the residences at Carnarc Crescent is only 1.8m width, there is scope to create an ‘entrance’ area where the path meets the reserve, where a map panel or welcome sign could be located. This would also include a lighting column.


It is proposed that at least one lighting column is introduced at the Carnarc Crescent entrance, to the rear of the gardens.

It is proposed that ground level solar powered markers are incorporated within the path surface and boardwalk.

Signs and Interpretation:

A modest budget is set aside for a couple of interpretation panels and/or features along the boardwalk route.

Directional signs will be posted near the entrance and at the sea wall junction.

Vegetation clearance and Replanting:

There will be an opportunity to involve FMLNR and TCV in the preconstruction vegetation clearance and post contract tree and wildflower planting along the route.

The current plans and visualisations for the for the MLNR Boardwalk project are available to view at Boardwalk and active travel route.

The public consultation is active now and will remain open until 5pm on Friday August 20. Comments should be submitted by e-mail to: PDU.DT2@highland.gov.uk

Related story: Plans to replace dilapidated boardwalk

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