WE’RE heading for the Scottish Borders this weekend to start working on our Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail. I’ve already walked the 375 mile/603km route in its entirely and have walked several sections of it a number of times. Now comes the difficult bit, filming it and writing the book!
I passionately believe the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail could become one of the iconic long-distance walking routes of the world and could also add appreciably to the economies of the towns, villages and settlements the route runs through. We all know how economically successful the West Highland Way has been and I believe the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail will bring many walkers from overseas to Scotland to walk the route in sections, or in some cases, in its entirety.
The route will run between Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders and Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point on the Scottish mainland, and can be broken down into four main sections;
• the southern section between Kirk Yetholm and Edinburgh, 81 miles/130km;
• a route between Edinburgh and Milngavie following the Union and Forth and Clyde Canals, 51 miles/82km;
• a central highlands section between Milngavie and Aviemore, 125 miles/201km;
• and the final route between Badenoch and Cape Wrath, 119miles/191km.
The notion of a National Trail running the length of the country isn’t a new one. Many people have long favoured the idea of a long distance walking route throughout the length of Scotland. The route of the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail passes through some of the most wonderful landscapes in Scotland, takes in both our National Parks, and even visits our capital city, Edinburgh.
For the first time many of Scotland’s existing footpaths will be linked into a longer length-of-the-nation route. The Scottish National Trail makes full use of existing footpaths and official ‘ways’, and follows various sections of the St Cuthbert’s Way, the Southern Upland Way, the West Highland Way, the Rob Roy Way and the Cape Wrath Trail.
The trail also follows a number of local ‘core paths’. As part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003, when Scotland was given access laws that have become the envy of the world, councils were asked to develop Core Path Networks around villages and towns. I’ve been able to make full use of these paths in various parts of the country, particularly around Peebles and the Pentlands, in the Trossachs around Aberfoyle and in Badenoch. Scotland is now very well served by an astonishing array of good walking routes so it seems like the right time to develop a long distance walking route that links them together to run the entire length of the country.
Last year when I was in Nepal the Great Himalayan Trail was launched, a long distance trekking route that runs right through the country. I thought then that if Nepal could have such a route why not Scotland? A route that connects the fabulous diversity of landscape that we have in Scotland, from the rolling hills of the Borders to the untamed majesty of the far North-West.
Now, with the generous help of GORE-TEX (R), we hope to make that vision a reality. The folk at Gore have been really supportive and encouraging and have helped us in a great number of ways, not least in making sure that I don’t suffer from wet feet!
All going well the guide book will be published in the early Autumn. It’s going to be a busy summer.