There were over 60,000 visits to the John Muir Way in 2015, according to a new Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) report, with 6000 people completing the 134-mile trail end-to-end over consecutive days.
Over 60,000 visits were specifically to walk or cycle on the John Muir Way, with a further 200,000 also making use of some of the popular local sections for routine dog walking, commuting and other purposes.
Eight in 10 visitors were extremely or very satisfied with their visit to Scotland’s newest long-distance route, citing in particular the variety of views, scenery, landscapes and terrain on offer. Seventy-five percent of the users are walkers, and 25% are cyclists.
The Way is designed to be used for local day trips throughout the Central Belt, as well as an end-to-end long distance trail, with easy access to attractions, public transport and accommodation along the way.
The survey found that a third of those interviewed were people who ‘seldom’ visit the outdoors, highlighting the potential of the route to encourage a new generation of outdoor visitors.
Ron McCraw, route developer for SNH, said:
“We’re really thrilled to discover how many people are using the John Muir Way. In particular, it’s great that so many people who may not have considered going out for a walk or cycle very often before are enjoying the Way. We’re now working with Central Scotland Green Network Trust and other partners to encourage even more people to journey on the route, which will benefit communities and businesses throughout the Central Belt.”
The survey also found peoples’ main reasons for visiting the route were both mental and physical health, including ‘health and exercise’ (61%), enjoying the scenery (22%), the fresh air or pleasant weather (20%), the opportunity to relax and unwind (19%), and the peace and quiet (16%).
Around 3 in 10 visitors spent money during their visit to the John Muir Way. Visitors from further afield were more likely than local people to spend money, showing the potential to increase the economic benefits as the route becomes better known.
The 134-mile John Muir Way officially opened in April 2014 and stretches for 134 miles across central Scotland, from Helensburgh in the west through to Dunbar in the east. The route boasts some of the most beautiful coastal scenery, sweeping landscapes, 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.
The John Muir Way is way-marked with signs, and a website (johnmuirway.org), book, leaflets and map give people all the information they need to complete all or part of the trail.
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.
The John Muir Way was planned and developed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) with Sustrans, Sportscotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Local Authorities as key funders, and with support from Central Scotland Green Network Trust and Scottish Government.
The John Muir Way Visitor Survey took place between November 2014 and October 2015. For the full survey results, see www.snh.gov.uk