134-Mile John Muir Way Opens

Submitted by edg on Mon, 21 Apr '14 11.01am

First Minister Alex Salmond officially opens the new 134-mile coast-to-coast pathway, the John Muir Way, in Dunbar at 12.30pm today.

The new walking-cycling-horseriding route, named after the father of the modern conservation movement, combines coastal scenery, sweeping landscapes, wildlife sites and historic visitor attractions across Scotland’s heartland.

Walkers, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy the rocky coasts of East Lothian where Muir played as a child, the dramatic Blackness Castle on the Forth, historic Linlithgow Palace, Roman hill forts on Antonine’s Wall, and the unique Falkirk Wheel boat lift, among other highlights.

John Muir was born in Dunbar in 1838, before emigrating to the United States in 1849. He helped save the Yosemite Valley in California, was a co-founder of The Sierra Club – one of the most influential grassroots environmental organisations in the USA – and successfully campaigned for national parks in America.

"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," said First Minister Alex Salmond.

"As well as the health benefits, the new John Muir Way is expected to help Scotland's tourist industry and around £40 million in economic benefits are expected to be brought to the many communities that are connected along the route," he said.

The route will be way-marked with John Muir Way signs, and a website (johnmuirway.org), book, leaflets and map will give people all the information they need to complete all or part of the trail.

Ian Ross, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) chairman, said: “This route has been a long time in the planning and is now a very important resource for people of any ability or fitness living or visiting Scotland. You can walk a mile along the route near where you live – or walk the entire 134 miles. The route is an easy and enjoyable way for the 3 million people who live in the Central Belt to enjoy the outdoors every day by foot, bicycle, and even by horseback in some places.”

The launch of the John Muir Way is also being celebrated with a 10-day festival with daily events at ten hotspots along the 134-mile route.

Ramblers, runners and cyclists will be invited to carry Muir-themed flags along sections, while a gang of bearded John Muir lookalikes will provide fun photo opportunities, as well as thought-provoking quotes from Muir’s writings. A camera obscura will offer a new perspective on the surrounding landscape. There will be seed bombing with Scottish wild flowers. A stylised tree will be raised at the launch and the finale in tribute to Muir’s enduring love of giant sequoias. And in a quieter, more reflective tribute, an American and a Scots poet will walk the length of the John Muir Way at their own unhurried pace, planting native seeds and writing poetry along the way.

The festival will end in Helensburgh on the same Clyde coast 11-year-old Muir and his family sailed en route to a new life in America. Appropriately – for the founding father of the US National Parks – a street ceilidh and firework festival finale is planned at Scotland’s national park at Loch Lomond in the evening of 26 April.

The full festival programme, including details of over 70 associated festival events, is available online at www.johnmuirfestival.com .