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April 21, 2014

John Muir Way Opens in Scotland


The John Muir Way, a 134-mile coast-to-coast lowland trail in Scotland, officially opened on April 21 -- Muir's birthday. The opening was part of the annual John Muir Festival, which runs from April 17-26 this year.


The route echoes the Sierra Club founder's own personal journey from his birthplace of Dunbar (above), on Scotland's east coast, to the west coast at Helensburgh (below) on the River Clyde, where Muir set sail for the United States in 1849 with his family.


Along the way, the trail passes by castles, historic towns and villages, beautiful coastal scenery, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland's first national park. Visitors can walk or cycle the entire way across the country or take scenic day trips on any stretch they want. Most stretches of the trail are easy to access by public transport, and there are numerous charming villages and towns in which one can stay along the way.


States the John Muir Festival website:

"John Muir was many things -- explorer, geologist, botanist, inventor, and farmer -- but it's fair to say that outside of his hometown of Dunbar, he is not a household name in Scotland. While there are parks, glaciers, and mountains named in his honour in the United States [and, this American editor feels compelled to add, the 211-mile-long John Muir Trail from Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada] ... with a few notable exceptions, Muir hasn't attained the same recognition in his homeland. We feel he should be known and celebrated throughout the land of his birth."

Below, a statue of young John Muir in Dunbar.


From Dunbar, the John Muir Way winds through the outskirts of Edinburgh and then zig-zags through the leafiest and most scenic suburbs of the city and all its attractions. A dozen or so miles further west, the route passes the 15th-century Blackness Castle (below) on the Firth of Forth.


The path weaves its way between canals, taking in Auchinstarry Marina, offering boats and bicycles for rent, before heading off to the foot of the wild, rolling Campsie Fells (below). For several miles, the route travels along the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D.

Campsie-FellsPhoto by Richard Webb, courtesy of geograph.org.uk and Wikimedia Commons.

The Strathkelvin Railway path then follows last century's trading tracks before reaching the high point of the route, the Stonymollan Road from Balloch to Helensburgh, affording superb views out over Loch Lomond and the distant mountains (below). It is an exhilarating experience to walk this final section of the trail to the town of Helensburgh and its scenic pier.


Other highlights of this year's John Muir Festival include nighttime outdoor arts events; the opening of the new Helix "eco-park" near the town of Falkirk; the unveiling of a monumental sculpture, The Kelpies (below), in Helix Park; a street party in Dunbar; and a fireworks finale above Loch Lomond. A host of local events are planned along the John Muir Way the week of the festival, and a variety of artists will visit selected "hotspots" along the trail.


The John Muir Way becomes the latest addition to Scotland's Great Trails. "The route takes in some of Scotland's finest and most accessible landscapes and historic sites and will help make them popular with locals and visitors alike," says Richard Davison of Scottish Natural Heritage. "It will encourage many more people to get outdoors and take an interest in nature, landscapes, the rich history of the area, and John Muir's legacy."


Visit the route website to learn more at www.johnmuirway.org. You can learn more about Scotland's wildlife, habitats, landscapes, and natural beauty from Scottish Natural Heritage. And check out the John Muir Trust, dedicated to protecting and preserving Scotland's wild lands and wild places.

Click on the map below to plan your walking or cycling trip on the John Muir Way.


Photos and map courtesy of the John Muir Festival, except where otherwise noted.

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