Walkers are being encouraged to use Scotland’s long-distance path network for short trips.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson pulled on his walking boots today to stride out on a trail near Peterhead to show the attractions of the country’s walking routes.
The move is part of an exercise to promote 20 long-distance paths and Scottish Natural Heritage is now labelling them Scotland’s Great Trails. The organisation said the long-distance routes provide 2,090km (1,300 miles) of walking, cycling and horse riding on high-quality paths from the Borders to the Highlands.
But the advisory body on Scotland’s outdoors said short walks on these long-distance paths could benefit many more people and they were not just aimed at those undertaking the whole length.
Mr Stevenson stepped out on part of the Formartine and Buchan Way, an 85km (53-mile) trail that runs from the north of Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
He said: “Enjoying the great outdoors is hugely important to our health and wellbeing. It also plays a major role in Scotland’s economy, particularly as a destination for tourism.
“We are very fortunate in this country to have so many long trails running through some fantastic landscapes from our world-renowned walks to more hidden treasures.
“It’s entirely appropriate that these trails be promoted to as many people as possible, for shorter outings as much as the more serious long-distance trips. The benefits of enjoying the outdoors are well documented, and this is an excellent way to reap those benefits.”
Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive said: “There is something for everyone in these trails.
“You can follow rivers from their source to the sea. You can immerse yourself in history, travel along old transport routes and find peace and quiet in wild, rugged landscapes. You can even get a blast of sea air on one of the coastal trails.
“Many are suitable for cycling or horse riding as well. And of course you don’t have to do the whole route.
“We hope the guide will encourage people to explore trails close to where they live, and enjoy some of our finest countryside as well as the sights, sounds and smells along the way. Most also offer regular opportunities for refreshments and have interesting places to visit.”
SNH and VisitScotland have produced a guide featuring short trips on all 20 long distance routes.
To celebrate the launch, a number of events are taking place on some of Scotland’s Great Trails this weekend, including a Ghost Train Walk on the Dava Way; an Ayrshire Path walk on the Ayrshire Coastal Path; the Granite Challenge on the Formartine and Buchan Way; a guided walk from Nethybridge to Aviemore on the Speyside Way and the West Highland Way Race on the West Highland Way.
More details about these and other events on the trails over the next few months are on the SNH website.
For a free copy of the guide ring SNH publications on 01738 458530 or email them.