John Muir Way ready to be unveiled

John Muir John Muir was born in Dunbar

He's the Scot credited with helping to establish America's national parks. Now, more than a century later, John Muir is to be honoured at the opening of a long distance path which bears his name.

The John Muir Way runs from Helensburgh on the west coast, from where he set sail for America, to Falkirk, Linlithgow, Edinburgh and North Berwick, before ending at the naturalist's birthplace in Dunbar.

Muir left Scotland in 1849 when he was only 11 years old, but by then his love of the natural world was well developed.

He went on to become one of the most influential figures in the history of the environmental movement and a national hero in the United States.

Despite his life-long love of Scotland, he is less well-known in the land of his birth.

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John Muir's character was moulded here in Scotland. He was a Scot from his birth to his death”

End Quote Keith Geddes Central Scotland Green Network

Keith Geddes, of the Central Scotland Green Network, has played a key role in bringing the plans for the John Muir Way to fruition.

He told me: "John Muir's character was moulded here in Scotland. He was a Scot from his birth to his death.

"He had a harsh, disciplinarian life at home in Dunbar, and he also talked about being 'thrashed' at school.

"So having the chance to explore nature here represented a big escape from that background."

The John Muir Way has been designed to encourage a new generation of Scots to enjoy the great outdoors.

Almost three million people live within easy travelling distance of the new path.

Ron McCraw, recreation and access manager at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "This is a brand new route. It is 134 miles long and you can walk or cycle it all the way.

John Muir birthplace John Muir's birthplace in Dunbar now houses a museum devoted to his life

"It's sign-posted along its length and it is easy or moderate to complete.

"We've done this in three and a half years, which is quite a short time scale to develop a long distance route.

"By comparison, the West Highland Way took ten years to do."

Business people and local politicians in towns and villages across the central belt, often bypassed by tourists travelling between Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands, are hoping the new route will help them attract more visitors.

John McGinty, the leader of West Lothian Council, told BBC Scotland News: "It will be fantastic to have the John Muir Way coming through West Lothian.

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I think he would have been chuffed to bits to know that a hundred years on there is now a trail in his name in his native Scotland”

End Quote Mairi Bell Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

"We have many attractive towns, including Linlithgow.

"We expect around 9,000 people a year to use the route and we're looking forward to welcoming all those folk to Linlithgow and the rest of West Lothian."

Many walkers and cyclists are expected to tackle the entire length of the John Muir Way, usually travelling from west to east due to the prevailing winds.

But for those without the time or inclination, it can easily be broken down into shorter walks or bike rides.

The section along Loch Lomond's famous bonnie banks is expected to be among the most popular.

The head of visitor experience at the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Mairi Bell, believes that would have provided John Muir with a sense of satisfaction.

"I think he would have been chuffed to bits to know that a hundred years on there is now a trail in his name in his native Scotland.

"As he was one of the founding fathers of national parks in the USA, I think it's only appropriate that the John Muir Way passes through Scotland's first national park."

The John Muir Way is due to be officially opened by the First Minister, Alex Salmond, at a ceremony in Dunbar on Easter Monday.

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