How popular are the North Harris paths?
A number of people have asked recently, “What are those grey boxes on poles, either side of the footpath?” Well, they are people counters and are used to build a picture of traffic levels on the key paths in North Harris. The counters unfortunately can’t differentiate between cows, deer and people, so there has to be some interpretation of the raw data delivered. This data allows us to focus maintenance activities and assists the search for funding.
This year saw the first post-pandemic visitor season, with numbers approaching those seen in 2019.
Lacasdail Lochs – Urgha
This is the first full season with a people counter in place on the circular walk around the middle loch at Urgha. In the period Jan-Oct there were 4169 counts. In the core summer months – Jun – Sep there was an average of 21 people per day passing. This is way beyond our predictions when we started to build the new track.
This well-trod path along the cliff from Huisinis toward Mhelein had 11,549 counts April-Sept. If we assume the majority of walkers go out and return the same way, the number of path users would be 5774. This is of similar size to the 2019 pre-Covid figure. That gives an averages 35 people per day.
The counter located at the entrance to the building only operated until August when the batteries failed. To this point 18,643 people entered and exited the building in the five months to Aug. This averages 169 people per day. Traffic was busiest at the start of June, then died back, increasing again towards a peak at the end of July. This number is down on the pre-COVID high of 41,317 in 2019.
Scalpay Eilean Glas
The counter is located out near the lighthouse. If we assume the majority of people walk out and back the same route, 7735 people passed the counter, with an average of 46 a day. During the winter i.e Sept 2021 – April 20222 the number of people passing was 4835, making this an all year-round destination.
Eagle Observatory – Mhiabhaig
Located at the entrance to the Observatory, this year we saw 8855 visitors, with an average of 52 a day. This is slightly up on the 2019 figure at 8561.Traffic is consistent throughout the season, tailing off at the end of September
Community Woodland – Aird a Mhulaidh
Located at the entrance to the woodland, Apr-Sep 2022 brought 1023 visitors averaging 6.3 people per day. This closely matches the winter count, demonstrating that the woods are being used by the local community, year-round. There was traffic each day throughout the summer, with an increase towards the end of August. This marks an increase from the 4 people per day counted in the 4 months in 2019 before work started on the Woodland Observatory.
Postman’s Path – Urgha
The counter was only re-installed on the path mid-season, following the construction of the new fenceline and a bridge replacement. As such, it had a short 2022 season counting 1389 people in the 70 days Jul – Sep giving an average of 20 people per day.
Many summer visitors come to North Harris for the landscape. The numbers above prove how popular the footpath network is. The Trust maintains the path network as best it can but receives no direct funding from the local authority, path users or visitors. As mentioned above, the counters give us justification for grant applications to assist with the major repairs.