Championing Scotland’s Long Distance Routes

There are currently 26 ‘official’ long distance routes in Scotland, with many others promoted as local initiatives or currently in development.  We are passionate about the potential for such trails to boost health, tourism and local economies, and are calling on the Scottish Government to invest in expanding and promoting our long distance networks.

Long Distance Routes

Ramblers Scotland’s position

Long distance paths contribute to national and local economies by attracting people to these areas.  The facilities available in communities - places to eat, drink and sleep as well as places of cultural interest to visit - make routes attractive to visitors.  Many long distance paths are used for day walks, or by local residents on regular walks, so local link paths to settlements are important.  We will continue to work with local and national government and partners to promote long distance routes and to ensure there is sufficient investment to maintain, restore and develop these routes and associated link paths.

Government action

The Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 3, published in 2014, lists a national long distance walking and cycling network as one of its developments.  The National Walking and Cycling Network is made up of the National Cycle Network, Scotland’s Great Trails and canal towpaths. Work is ongoing to build on the existing networks by closing key gaps, upgrading connecting routes, encouraging shared use and linking with public transport.  Yet no additional funding has been made available to create or promote the network; the initiative mainly involves pulling together existing strands of work, using existing staffing and funding streams.  So we are calling on the Scottish Government to make the necessary resources available to deliver long distance routes, and other paths, as a way of encouraging more physical activity, and in particular walking.

Background

Paths are important ways for people to get outdoors and enjoy their access rights, and long distance routes are particularly vital for tourism, but we lag behind other countries in the provision of a coherent, well-signed, national network of walking routes. 

Ramblers Scotland has worked closely for many years with Scottish Natural Heritage and other partners to develop long distance routes.  There are currently 26 routes branded as Scotland’s Great Trails, totalling 1,700 miles (2,736km) in length.  To qualify as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, a route must be over 25 miles long, be signed and well managed.  There are plenty of other routes that could qualify as Great Trails if they were brought up to standard, signed on the ground or extended by a short distance.  Apart from the standard ‘thistle’ symbol used on the four, original long distance routes (The West Highland Way, The Great Glen Way, The Southern Upland Way and The Speyside Way) there is no standardised signage or branding for walking routes in Scotland.  The official website for Scotland’s Great Trails links to the websites for individual routes, and while the route information is generally comprehensive and up-to-date, there isn’t a unified, national picture or standardised format.  This makes it more difficult for users to find and compare information on walking routes. 

By contrast, Switzerland has 6,000km of walking routes, with national, regional and local routes, including 67 fully accessible routes, identified and promoted by easily recognisable branding.

Useful links
2014 National Walking Strategy
Scotland’s Great Trails
Walk Highlands – comprehensive information on long distance walking routes in Scotland
VisitScotland
Heritage Paths Project
Download Scotland on Foot, our guide to Scottish access rights and responsibilities for walkers.
Download Walking in Scotland, our guide to getting more out of walking in Scotland

Page updated July 2016.