A NEW walking route officially opened yesterday to commemorate Scots-born environmentalist John Muir is expected to generate around £40 million over the next five years for communities along its way, said Alex Salmond.
Muir, born in Dunbar in 1838 before emigrating to the US at the age of 11, was an early advocate of the preservation of the wilderness and was considered by Americans to be the “Father of the National Parks” in his adopted homeland.
Three years in the making, the 134-mile John Muir Way spans the breadth of central Scotland from Helensburgh on the west coast, passing Loch Lomond, Falkirk, Linlithgow, Edinburgh and North Berwick, before reaching Dunbar.
The First Minister declared the route open in Dunbar yesterday as a flare was sent up from a RNLI lifeboat, with ramblers, runners, cyclists, flag-bearers and street performers blazing a trail through the first section of the path.
“John Muir was a remarkable Scot – a man whose passion for nature and the outdoors left an incredible environmental legacy that resonates to this day,” Mr Salmond said.
“From humble beginnings in Dunbar, his influence spread across the world and his name now adorns parks, glaciers and mountains. His legacy is celebrated in an annual commemorative day in California and his image has featured on two US postage stamps.
“There is no more fitting tribute, in 2014 the 100th anniversary of his death and in our Year of Homecoming, than to officially open the John Muir Way from Helensburgh to
Dunbar and take walkers and cyclists through 134 miles of splendid scenery in Scotland’s heartland.”
He added: “The new John Muir Way is expected to help Scotland’s tourist industry and around £40m in economic benefits are expected to be brought to the many communities that are connected along the route.”
The path can be used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders and takes in coastal scenery, wildlife sites, historic buildings such as Linlithgow Palace and popular attractions such as the Falkirk Wheel.
The route is marked with signs and a website, book, leaflets and map have been created to give people the information they need to complete all or part of the trail.
It has been divided into ten sections allowing people to complete the route in shorter walks or cycles.
West Lothian Council leader John McGinty said: “We expect around 9,000 people a year to use the route and we’re looking forward to welcoming all those folk to Linlithgow and the rest of West Lothian.”
Sandy Janas, chairman of the Linlithgow branch of Ramblers Scotland, said that he hoped the new walk would encourage a wider cross-section of walkers to explore the Scottish Lowlands.
“I would like to think the new walkway will make people look afresh at the Lowlands.
“The idea of a through route rather than the old one, which previously just went from Dunbar to Musselburgh, is fantastic.
“Muir was better known in America than here so it’s good he’s getting much more publicity now.”
Ian Ross, Scottish Natural Heritage chairman, said: “The route is an easy and enjoyable way for the three million people who live in the Central Belt to enjoy the outdoors every day by foot, bicycle, and even by horseback.”