North Woods Construction Ltd
Beinn Eighe Footbridge

EU funding

This footbridge was designed and built with EU Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) funding as part of the ‘Design with Pine’ project run by the multi-agency funded Highland Birchwoods. The ultimate client was SNH and the bridge is located at the beginning of woodland and mountain trails leading from a car park on Loch Maree within the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve in Wester Ross.

innovative engineering

As its name suggests, the project aims were to promote the use of home-grown Scots pine in a variety of new and innovative structures and buildings in Scotland. This project offered an opportunity to put into practice and further develop experience gained by North Woods in a previous EU funded NPP project into roundwood and timber-concrete composites. The bridge may be the only one of its structural type in Scotland and we are grateful to John Sinclair of Allen Gordon engineering for his collaboration in this unusual and provocative structure.

Scots pine

Eight metre long Scots pine beams were milled by James “Sage” Nairn on site at Cawdor Estate in Nairn on a Woodmizer. In order to avoid felling more trees than were necessary for the job, standing trees were sonically strength graded by Elspeth MacDonald of Forest Research. Eight beams were screw laminated into two larger beams and put into place across new concrete parapets. Permanent timber shuttering was laid between the two beams and concrete poured over them while they were propped from below. Steel pins resin-grouted into the timber beam prior to the pour, lock the slip plane between the timber and concrete giving an immensely strong and durable structure. A superficial timber deck was placed over the concrete at SNH’s request but could be eliminated for economy and durability in different circumstances.

design for deconstruction
and maintenance

The superstructure is also all in Scots pine but the smaller sections allowed use of local timber from Leckmelm Wood. Each of the handrails and posts are screw laminated from two members which are then joined by steel flitch plates. Indeed every individual member of the balustrade is removable independently for maintenance or eventual replacement giving the bridge a potentially exceptionally long life. The timber “arch” gives the bridge a certain presence in the landscape which its predecessor lacked and the choice of colour gives an echo of birch bark and the subdued natural tones of this northern landscape.