Walkers on a restored path on Conic Hill, overloooking Loch Lomond. Photo: Michael McGurk

Walkers on a restored path on Conic Hill, overloooking Loch Lomond. Photo: Michael McGurk

Some of the worst eroded paths in Scotland’s national parks will be repaired and upgraded in a £6m scheme announced today.

The Mountains and the People project will also provide training for young people in the scheme, backed by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mountains to benefit from the project include Ben Lomond, The Cobbler, Ben A’an, Beinn A Ghlo and Lochnagar, with a total of almost 125km (77 miles) of eroded upland paths restored and upgraded. They will then be monitored through an Adopt-a-Path scheme through which regular users of the paths will provide feedback on their condition, enabling problems to be tackled before they become a major issue.

The Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust successfully applied for the £3.28m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and funding from other bodies, including the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and the Cairngorms National Park Authorities, has topped the cash up to £6.1m.

The project represents the coming together of Scotland’s two national parks to work on a scale never previously attempted and in conjunction with COAT, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland over a five-year period.

COAT trainees restore a mountain path. Photo: Michael McGurk

COAT trainees restore a mountain path. Photo: Michael McGurk

The project will give 48 young people the opportunity to learn essential countryside skills while gaining SVQ accreditation to help them into employment. Courses will be run in the south Loch Lomond and Cairngorms areas.

Additionally, a volunteer programme will recruit, train and support volunteers in carrying out basic construction work, maintenance and habitat management, while visitors will be given information to ensure that they don’t damage the special environment that they have come to enjoy through talks, guided walks, events and social media.

The project’s education programme will coordinate the creation of opportunities for schools, colleges and universities to become involved in the monitoring, care and management of upland paths in both national parks.

COAT led the successful application for HLF funding and will commit £612,177 to the project, which will be matched by contributions from Cairngorms National Park Authority, £275,000; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, £525,000; Scottish Natural Heritage, £200,000 and Forestry Commission Scotland, £525,000, with the rest coming from corporate sponsorship and charitable trusts, to give an overall total of £6.1m.

Dougie Baird, chief executive of the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust, said: “The Mountains and the People is a project designed to bring the people of Scotland together to help look after some of Scotland’s most precious national assets – the mountains of our national parks.

Celebrating the grant are: Hamish Trench, director of conservation and visitor experience at Cairngorms National Park Authority; Bridget Jones, head of visitor management at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority; Will Huckerby recreation manager at Forestry Commission Scotland; Dougie Baird, Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust chief executive; trust chairman Peter Ord and Gordon Watson chief executive of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority. Photo: Michael McGurk

Celebrating the grant are: Hamish Trench, director of conservation and visitor experience at Cairngorms National Park Authority; Bridget Jones, head of visitor management at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority; Will Huckerby recreation manager at Forestry Commission Scotland; Dougie Baird, Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust chief executive; trust chairman Peter Ord and Gordon Watson chief executive of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority. Photo: Michael McGurk

“Mountains in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and the Cairngorms are so important for nature and as places people can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. The HLF funding means we can now get started and with all partners help protect the Scottish landscape for millions of people to enjoy.”

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “Scotland’s national parks encompass some of the country’s most iconic landscapes and are vital for their contribution to tourism as well as for the health and social benefits of the millions of people that enjoy them.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we are delighted to be able to support a project which encourages people to take ownership of this rich heritage.

“Their newly-learned skills will not only make a positive difference to their own lives but will play an important part in looking after the future of Scotland’s magnificent landscapes.”

Gordon Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, said: “Our hills and mountains provide the perfect way for people to make the most of the outdoors.

“This significant investment to improve our mountain paths will provide further opportunities for the people of Scotland to get out and get active. We’re incredibly proud to be part of this landmark project that brings together all national park aims to truly connect the mountains and the people, with opportunities for many to get directly involved.”

Gregor Hutcheon, Cairngorms National Park Authority and COAT board member: “We are delighted our much loved mountain landscapes are set to benefit from this major investment.

“Mount Keen, Beinn a Ghlo and Lochnagar – some of our most iconic mountains – are among those where paths will be repaired and upgraded.

“What is particularly exciting is that the project will also create opportunities for people to train for employment in this type of environmental conservation and to volunteer to help look after these paths by assisting with repairs and monitoring their condition in the future.”

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