August 28, 2011
HOLY ISLE GATEWAY PROJECT - IMPROVING ACCESS AND INTERPRETATION
GATEWAY PROJECT OVERVIEW
While the Holy Isle Project continues to blossom as an interfaith centre, a new development of the Gateway Project looks set to mark a milestone in the island's development. We have almost reached our funding target for a joint project between North Ayrshire Council (NAC) and the Holy Isle. This entailed LEADER-match funding the NAC and the Holy Isle's contribution. We are very grateful to LEADER, NAC and the generous donations of private sponsors. We also have an application in with Entrust for the last part of the funding needed for the project.
We first approached the council two years ago, our main contact being Kathleen Don who is the North Ayrshire Economic Development Officer. She has been incredibly supportive and invaluable in our attempts to realise this project. We were also lucky to have the help of Don McNeish who was responsible for maintaining the paths on Arran for several years.
Historically access to the island has been a sensitive issue for locals and the wider population alike. While on the market in 1992, the possibility of private ownership of the island again raised concerns that access to this historical and spiritual site would be restricted. However, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche has ensured that visitors have always been welcome on the island since Rokpa took ownership.
The Gateway Project includes: a new pontoon to replace the old jetty, construction of a breakwater over the existing jetty, renovation of the existing core path on the western side of the island and new signs for the visitors. Work on the Gateway Project has been ongoing for the last two years and we are now beginning to see the fruits of our labours. The first part of the project has already been completed with a feasibility study done and planning permissions granted. We hope to see the new pontoon assembled in August and operational by September, and if all goes well the project will be completed for winter.
The heart of the Gateway project is the new all weather pontoon. This will hopefully greatly improve access to the isle in bad weather. It is not unknown for a whole course to be stuck on Arran and have to return to home without getting on to the Isle at all. The new pontoon should end this. While the work on the paths means we will be able to provide access to a greater number of people, including people with limited mobility and new signs, that are one of the three elements of the project, are aimed at better informing visitors coming to the isle.
Work on the path has been ongoing for over a year now with the Holy Isle environment department out in all weather, throughout the year, putting in drainage ditches and culverts. Working under the guidance and expertise of Rinchen and greatly aided by the help of several short-term, full-time volunteers who stayed on the island specifically to take to the path with shovels, pinch-bars and wheelbarrows, the second half of the core path leading from St. Molaise's cave down to the South end of the island is complete. The skill of the environment team is evident. The path from St Molaise’s cave to Pillar Rock lighthouse is now no longer boggy and difficult to walk without wellies, and the culverts have been put in so well you will not see them! If you can find one then just admire the skilled stonework.
We are now awaiting the arrival of some heavy machinery and a team of volunteers to develop the path leading to St. Molaise's cave with the aim of greatly improving access. If you would like to volunteer to be part of this exciting project, please contact reception via email (email@example.com) or call 01770 601100.
Part of the Access project is to develop new signs for the isle to better inform visitors. This year will see new maps and information about the isle which includes information about St Molaise’s life. Gerrard Tattersfield of Arran designed the dream flag theme for the signage and created the maps, while Sherab from Holy Isle worked on the information boards for the isle. We are also grateful to Fergus Hall at Samye Ling who worked for months on a painting of St. Molaise.
We will keep you posted on developments as they occur.
Since the early nineties, when Holy Isle was bought by Rokpa Trust, we have been visited annually by up to seven thousand people from all over the world, for many a visit to the isle is magical experience.
On the 29th April a group from North Ayrshire Council, accompanied by Brain Donahoe MP for Central Ayrshire visited Holy Isle. They toured the Island and the Centre for World Peace and Health and saw the present condition of the jetty and the paths.
is a photo of the visiting party: kneeling are Elspeth and Russel of
Ocean Breeze Rib tours; in the centre of the middle row is Lama Yeshe
Rinpoche (Director of Holy Isle Project); to his right Brion Donahoe SMP
and to his left Christine Donahoe. In the back row from left to right
are: Yeshe Palmo (Holy Isle Access Project Manager), Kathleen Don North
(Ayrshire Council Economic development officer), David O'Neil
(Councillor of North Ayrshire Council), and Elma Murray (Chief Executive
of Ayrshire Council). The
group met with Lama Yeshe to discuss the Access project, and look at
other possible joint projects between the council and Holy Isle.