A PROPOSED trail around the island of Mull could provide a £1 million boost to the local economy, according to Scottish Natural Heritage.
The body claims the route, for cyclists and walkers, would create a visitor attraction unique to the island and encourage visitors to stay in the area longer and spend more.
A SNH report also claims that the trail would create opportunities for businesses such as cafes, accommodation providers, cycling supply shops and baggage transfer services.
If well designed and with the right services in place, the report estimates that the route could attract around 10,000 part-way walkers, 2,500 full length walkers and 1,000 cyclists each year, generating additional income of more than £900,000 a year. A proactive advertising campaign could see that figure rise even further.
The report was welcomed by Ian Ross, new chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage and a former forester on Mull.
Ross said: “Scotland’s growing network of trails is creating improved opportunities for people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits associated with being outdoors.
“We have been working with the Mull and Iona Community Trust to help develop their plans for the route and one of the great things about this proposal is that it has come from the local community.
“The people living here know that it is a special place and they want visitors to come and enjoy Mull and Iona’s spectacular environment for themselves.
“We are very keen to see more trails developed across the country to help people get out and enjoy the outdoors and generate income for rural economies.”
Moray Finch, from the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT), said: “Developing a pathway on the island which links the main ferry port at Craignure with the ferryport to Iona at Fionnphort, has been discussed in the community for several years.
“As well as the economic benefits it could bring, the path appeals to local people for a range of outdoors activities such as walking, jogging and cycling.”
The proposed route would connect directly with the Oban to Fort William section of the National Cycle Network.
This section will link, via ferry, with the proposed Tyndrum to Oban path, which will in turn link to the West Highland Way. Work is currently ongoing to identify the best route for the Tyndrum path.
SNH claim that promoting the trail as part of a longer pilgrimage route to St Andrews, as well as a standalone route, will help raise its profile and its status alongside other long distance routes such as the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way.