Walker Dave Alston and his terrier Murray join Roseanna Cunningham, Francesca Osowska and landowner Robin Niven near Loch Leven. Photo: Suzanne Moore

Walker Dave Alston and his terrier Murray join Roseanna Cunningham, Francesca Osowska and landowner Robin Niven near Loch Leven. Photo: Suzanne Moore

More than 100 miles of new and improved paths will be created in Scotland in a bid to boost access for the public.

By the end of the year, routes the equivalent of the length of the West Highland Way will have been established under the Improving Public Access scheme.

Scottish Natural Heritage, the Holyrood government’s advisory body on the outdoors, said the paths will make it easier for people to enjoy the countryside with opportunities for walkers, wheelchair users, cyclists, horse riders and buggy users.

The new and improved paths will connect towns and villages and provide a variety of ways to explore the outdoors in coastal areas, along riverbanks, to viewpoints and around farmland.

Some of the paths will also form part of longer distance routes such as the John Muir Way.

Since opening in 2015 to farmers, local authorities, charities and community groups, a wide range of projects has benefited from funding as part of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme to improve existing paths or create new ones.

In Dumfries and Galloway, St Ninian’s Cave near Whithorn, said to be the retreat of Scotland’s first saint, can now be more easily reached by the improved coastal path. An easy-access path is also proving popular at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, where previously tree roots and muddy hollows restricted some from enjoying the riverside walk there.

Some of Scotland’s longer-distance routes have also seen improvements, including sections of the South Loch Ness Trail and the Rob Roy and Speyside Ways.

In total 138 projects have been funded, with 52 due to be completed in 2019.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “What better way to mark the successful conclusion of May’s National Walking Month than to announce so many new walking paths for people to enjoy, connecting our towns and villages with Scotland’s amazing countryside.

“Thanks in part to EU funding, these new and improved pathways should encourage even more people to get outside and participate in recreational activities, with all the associated benefits for physical and mental health.

“The Scottish Government is very proud to fund this initiative, as we continue to champion the right to responsible access across Scotland.”

SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Scotland’s stunning countryside is one of our greatest assets, both for residents and visitors.

“We know that more people than ever before are visiting the outdoors on a regular basis which is great news given the many benefits for physical and mental health of getting outside.

“Good quality and well signposted paths can make it easier for more people to enjoy our great outdoors so with summer ahead it’s fantastic to be able to celebrate the success of this scheme in delivering so many quality routes across the country.”