New coast-to-coast walking trail set to be the most popular yet
Photograph: The John Muir statue in his birthplace of Dunbar (SNH)
In its first year, the newly extended John Muir Way is predicted to attract 1.8 million people.Â The 130-mile route, from Helensburgh, in Argyll, toÂ Dunbar, in East Lothian, is set to open this spring.
The official launch by First Minister Alex Salmond will be part of the John Muir Festival, held from 17-26 April. This year marks the centenary of Muirâ€™s death in 1914, and the festival also coincides with his birthday on 21 April. He was born in Dunbar in 1838.
And Scottish Natural Heritage, who are project-managing the Way, believe it will become Scotlandâ€™s most used walking trail.
Currently, the Fife Coastal Path is Scotlandâ€™s most popular long-distance trail with some 500,000 people visiting parts of it each year. Annually, about 5,000 walk the 117-mile route from end to end.
Each year some 90,000 walkers visit the West Highland Way, 34,000 of them walking it from start to finish.
Now itâ€™s claimed that the John Muir Way is set to record 1.8 million visitors and itâ€™s estimated that 9,000 will walk the entire route in year one.
Who was John Muir?
The legendary environmentalist emigrated with his family to the United States, and made his name as the founding father of American national parks but he always recalled Dunbar, his home town, with fondness. In the US, the John Muir Trail offers an epic journey in California, from Â the Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney.
Ron McCraw, project manager for the John Muir Way at SNH, has said: â€œWe want to awaken in people the philosophy that John Muir had about nature.Â He was inspired by the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, but he was also inspired by what was in his back yard. We think it will be a very special route.”
More about the new route
Like any long-distance route, the extended way can be walked in either direction. If going west to east, from Helensburgh it follows an ancient ‘coffin road’, taking the Stoneymollan road to Balloch, which offers superb views over Loch Lomond. It uses the Strathkelvin Railway Path, and passes the Campsie Fells and Auchinstarry Marina on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Further east,Â historical highlights include Blackness CastleÂ on the Firth of Forth, and the route thenÂ zig-zags through the northern fringes of Edinburgh, before following the existingÂ John Muir Way through the villages, dunes and beaches of East Lothian to Dunbar.
Why the way will be popular
Itâ€™s thought that the central location of the John Muir Way and the easily accessible start and finish will make it Scotlandâ€™s most popular long-distance trail. Many villages and towns, as well as Edinburgh, will offer good alternative access points for walking shorter sections.
In addition, many parts of the route have been established for some time and walkers, old and new, may well be keen to complete it on the newly established connecting sections.
For more about the John Muir Festival see the Scottish Natural Heritage website, www.snh.gov.uk