IT’S 373 miles long, takes two months to walk, and is being named after a type of waterproof fabric.
Scotland’s first national trail, which will be launched later this year by TV presenter and walking enthusiast Cameron McNeish, will pass through some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery, including its two national parks and its capital city, as it meanders from Caithness to the Borders.
But in a move that will upset some traditionalists, instead of being called after one of Scotland’s national figures or its mountain ranges, it will be branded after a fabric used to make outdoor clothing.
The Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail, which starts at Kirk Yetholm, in the Borders, and ends at Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of the UK mainland, will take in sections of a number of existing walking routes in the country including the West Highland Way, the Southern Upland Way, the Rob Roy Way and the Cape Wrath Trail. The company’s name is expected to feature on copper plaques that point the way along the route and links with shops that sell the company’s products may be advertised.
McNeish, who is working on a book and a TV series to accompany the route, said he was inspired to launch the trail after visiting Nepal last year.
“While I was there they had just announced the creation of the Great Himalayan Trail and I thought to myself why can’t we have one back in Scotland? Most countries have some sort of iconic long-distance route and while we do have the West Highland Way, it’s quite short at 92 miles. Given the situation Scotland is in now as it comes up to a referendum about independence, it would be an interesting time to walk right through modern Scotland.
McNeish received sponsorship from Gore-Tex to fund the project and in return the company’s name was included in the title.
McNeish said: “We have such incredible bio-diversity in Scotland and a huge diversity of landscape. The areas from the Borders to the Highlands are very different from each other both culturally and visually, and they are some of the most extraordinary landscapes in the world.”
The establishment of the route was broadly welcomed by outdoors organisations.
David Gibson, chief officer of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “I think it’s great that Scotland should have a national trail. Anything that encourages people to go out and explore our wonderful landscape and countryside is a great thing. And if by Gore-tex’s sponsorship they have facilitated something that will encourage people to go and enjoy the Scottish countryside I don’t think that’s bad.”
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust said: “Well done to Cameron and Gore-Tex. This sounds like a fantastic trail using established routes, which will take people through some of Scotland’s most beautiful and wild places and benefit local economies along the way. We hope lots of people will walk it, love it and realise how valuable our natural landscapes are.”
Commenting on the decision to keep the Gore-Tex name in the title Helen Todd, development officer at the Ramblers Association Scotland said: “You’re not forcing people to wear Gore-Tex clothes if they walk the route, it’s more that you have to get funding where you can. Local authorities do some funding and if you walk any route there’s always a sign telling you who’s been funding it, whether it’s Scottish Natural Hertiage or the Forestry Commision or whoever.”
The trail will be formally launched this year by First Minister Alex Salmond, whose mother was a keen rambler. McNeish said: “He said he liked the idea of his mum looking down and said he was glad he was getting involved with this.”
Ron McCraw, recreation and access manager with Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “We very much welcome the development of more trails to help people enjoy the outdoors, so the idea of linking existing routes to make a trail that runs from one end of the country to the other is a good one. The great thing about this route is that you can dip in for shorter trips as well as going the whole distance.”
Gore-Tex spokesman Willie Fletcher said: “This is a new thing for Gore-Tex. We have worked with Cameron on a number of projects in the past but this is a first for us. We’re delighted to be involved in the trail and are hoping to develop local partnerships in places that the trail passes through.”